James Jay Carafano
Iran and Afghanistan are trading shots across their border. So we asked former National Security Council expert Victoria Coates what is going on.
What’s the bottom line? Will be a distraction for the Taliban and the regime in Tehran from attacking American interests. That said, escalating violence will only mean more misery for the long-suffering people of Afghanistan and Iran. Bears watching to see how conflict impacts both regimes and the region.
Why are they fighting? Access to Helmand River water has been an issue since Afghanistan installed the first dam in the mid-20th century, and Iran’s water vulnerability has been exacerbated by the regime’s serial mismanagement of environmental issues since the 1979 revolution. Up to 97% of the country is currently experiencing some degree of drought.
On the Afghan side of the border, after the U.S. damaged Afghanistan’s Kajaki hydro-electric plant on the Helmand in the 2001 invasion, the international community (lead by the U.S.) has poured untold billions of dollars trying to develop Afghanistan’s hydro-generated electricity capacity. The Kamal Khan Dam, inaugurated in 2021, is legal under the 1973 Helmand River Treaty but Iran contends it will further degrade water supply into Hamoun Lake on the border between the two countries, and the resulting tensions have grown over the past two years.