Flash Floods in Northern Afghanistan have claimed the lives of more than 70 Afghans who had previously inhabited villages in the remote Baghlan province. The death toll, which has been estimated at between 80 and 100, has driven hundreds more from homes that have been quickly washed away by the rapid influx of water. This past weekend’s floods represent the second such flood in two months, coming on the heels of a landslide provoked by heavy rains that killed an addition 300 people in nearby Dabakhstan province.
For villages situated in Afghanistan’s mountainous north, unreliable transportation and difficult terrain pose a variety of problems that have limited the region’s ability to develop adequate infrastructure and maintain skilled laborers year-round. The Afghan government’s own ability to react to natural disasters has been impeded by similar infrastructure problems in addition to a lack of efficiency in the country’s disaster relief organism. Stagnating bodies of water and inefficient disposal of waste materials have further drawn the attention of health organizations concerned about the spread of diseases such as cholera and dysentery, such as that of 2013.
Springtime in northern Afghanistan is characterized by flooding and landslides, and as an infrastructure problem is nothing new for the current Afghan administration. The ability to react rapidly to such crises is a capability that both of the current candidates to the Afghan presidency have promised to improve, though little in the way of concrete measures has been proposed.
- Representatives from Russia, Ukraine, and the EU are set to resume gas talks today to resolve a dispute over price. The talks will be held in Brussels, with Russian energy minister Alexander Novak, Ukrainian energy minister Yuri Prodan, and European Union’s energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger. The central dispute revolves around how much Ukrainian Naftogaz will have to pay for the gas it received from Russia. Gazprom almost doubled the price to $485 per 1,000 cubic meters in April, an increase which occurred after Victor Yanukovych fled the country. Ukraine’s due date is Tuesday June 10, or Russia has vowed to cut off its gas supplies, leaving a major transit route to the European Union closed.
- President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov announced that the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Kazakhstan Railway will be launched in 2014. The Turkmen president made the announcement in a joint meeting with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev at the Summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States (CCTS) in Bodrum, Turkmenistan. This announcement has major implications for the development and transportation of energy resources in the Caspian Sea.
- The Manas Transit Center has seen its last US-based airman leave earlier last week, and has been entirely vacated of equipment. The Kyrgyz media has been largely silent on the issue, according to EurasiaNet, in comparison to the Russian media, which has reacted with glee. The Manas center handled 5.3 milion military personnel from 26 countries as the main entry and exit point for Afghanistan. The period was characterized by rocky negotiations between Bishkek and Washington, with the Krygyz demanding higher and higher rates of rent, and prominent Kyrgyz politicians campaigning to shut the base down. Some have noted that with Krygyzstan entering the Customs Union almost simultaneously with the US withdrawal is significant, in addition, the loan of $1.2 billion from Russian sources could have persuaded the Kyrgyz to side with one major power ally over another.
- Iran and the United States will hold their first bilateral talks in decades, according to statements released on Saturday. The talks will take place in Geneva today and Tuesday, with a State Department Delegation headed by Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Undersecretary Wendy Sherman, who is responsible for the Iran negotiations. The discussions fall outside of the P5+1 framework of leading nations, which are still currently pursuing talks for a nuclear agreement. More on these talks as they commence.