The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) Economic Commission, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, on Sunday gave orders for various ministries to prioritize projects to generate electricity by using coal.
In a statement, the commission said after “extensive discussions on all issues that the private sector is prepared to invest in” it was decided that the generation of electricity should be a priority.
According to the statement, the commission instructed the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum; the Ministry of Trade and Industry; the Chamber of Industry and Mines; as well as the Chamber of Commerce and Investment, under the leadership of the Ministry of Energy and Water, to generate electricity from coal for industrial parks, and large cities among other sectors.
The commission also ordered the relevant bodies to “set priorities according to the volume of coal and the need for electricity, and then start working on it”.
Afghanistan currently generates over 600 megawatts (MW) of electricity from several hydroelectric plants as well as using fossil fuel and solar panels. However, an addition 670 MW is imported from neighboring Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan but holds 73 million tons of proven coal reserves as of 2016, ranking 62nd in the world.
However, estimates put the total reserves at between 100 million and 400 million tons.
A shortage of power has plagued Afghanistan for decades despite having ample hydropower, coal and fossil fuel resources.
But one successful private partnership has been through Bayat Power, Afghanistan’s largest, Afghan-owned and operated Power Production Company which has the region’s most technologically advanced gas fired electric power plant.
Launched in 2019, this commercial operation provides reliable and affordable electric power to thousands of people in Afghanistan.
Located in Sherberghan, in the north of the country, the epicenter of the nation’s gas-rich region, Bayat Power has steadfastly aimed to provide essential power for Afghanistan’s economic growth.
Powered by a Siemens SGT-A45 ‘Fast Power’ turbine, the world’s most advanced mobile gas to energy power solution, phase one of Bayat Power-1’s operations generates up to 41 megawatts of power for Afghan homes and businesses.
Bayat Power hopes however to eventually roll out three phases in total, that will generate more than 200 megawatts of electricity – enough to serve millions of Afghan residential and commercial clients.
Kabul hoping to purchase 1 million barrels of crude oil from Russia
Afghanistan’s acting minister of trade and industry Nuriddin Azizi has said Kabul hopes to purchase one million barrels of Russian crude oil, and secure some sort of barter arrangement with Moscow.
Currently on a visit to Moscow, for talks on expanding trade ties with Russia, Azizi was quoted by Russian media outlet RIA Novosti as saying “we have offered [Russia] to buy about 1 million [barrels], if [Russia] can send more, then this is not a problem.”
He also noted that Afghanistan is hoping to barter for the oil. “The most important thing for us would be the oil and gas project. We would also like to consider the option of barter trade, provided that Russia has a need for some kind of Afghan products,” he said.
In May, Afghan Charge d’Affaires in Russia Jamal Nasir Garwal spoke about plans to negotiate with Moscow on the supply of Russian hydrocarbons. “We are determined to reach agreements between Afghanistan and Russia and sign specific deals,” he said.
Russian Ambassador to Kabul, Dmitry Zhirnov, told RIA the sides will discuss the supply of crude oil, grain and sunflower oil during the delegation’s visit.
The Ministry of Industry and Trade has not yet meanwhile said that the Afghan delegation has not yet finalized any agreements with the Russian side..
Although Russia has not yet recognized the new government of Afghanistan, it has close relations with Kabul.
Trans-Afghanistan railway survey finds no technical problems with route
A preliminary field survey has found no technical problems with the proposed route for a 780 km trans-Afghanistan railway which would link Uzbekistan with Kabul, Jalalabad, the border with Pakistan and Peshawar.
The proposed railway is a joint initiative by Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan which is intended to promote regional connectivity and trade. It would also provide Central Asia with access to Pakistan’s seaports, Railway Gazette International reported.
The cost is provisionally estimated at $5 billion.
Surveying by a joint technical team from the three countries began at Naibabad on the existing Uzbekistan – Hairatan – Mazar-i-Sharif railway on July 27 and was completed at Torkham on the border with Pakistan on August 10.
The joint team will make any necessary changes to the proposed alignment before presenting a final route to the authorities in the three countries for further technical and economic feasibility studies, Railway Gazette International reported.
The Afghanistan Railway Authority said the members of the tri-national technical team considered the survey a success, and had expressed satisfaction with the arrangements made by the Afghan government and the professional behavior of the railway authority.
Bakht-u-Rehman Sharafat, who became ARA Chairman following the IEA takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, said railway projects would guarantee Afghanistan’s economic development and also security.
History, economics and conflict mean that Afghanistan’s rail links to Central Asia are currently limited to two short 1 520 mm gauge cross-border links from Turkmenistan and the 75 km line from Uzbekistan to Mazar-e-Sharif.
A 1 435 mm gauge line from Khaf in Iran towards Herat was inaugurated as far as Rozanak in December 2020; this was damaged last year and needs to be repaired.
Biden unlikely to release frozen Afghan assets anytime soon
The Biden administration does not plan to release billions of dollars of Afghan government assets held by the country’s central bank anytime soon, the US special envoy for Afghanistan, Tom West said Monday.
Citing concerns the funds could end up in the hands of terrorists after the leader of al-Qaeda was killed while hiding out in Kabul, West said: “We do not see recapitalization of the Afghan central bank as a near-term option.”
He said “the Taliban’s (IEA) sheltering of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri reinforces deep concerns we have regarding diversion of funds to terrorist groups.”
CNN reported that a National Security Council spokesperson said “there has been no change” in efforts to get the funds to the Afghan people, but cited Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul as having a direct impact on how the administration deals with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA).
“We have been engaged with foreign counterparts in efforts to support the establishment of an international trust fund with robust safeguards to enable the use of Afghan reserves for the benefit of the Afghan people given Afghanistan’s ongoing economic and humanitarian crisis,” the NSC spokesperson said.
“We have made considerable progress and our focus right now is on supporting the establishment of this fund. The recent revelations of the Taliban’s (IEA) flagrant violation of the Doha agreement illustrate the importance of remaining clear-eyed in our dealings with the Taliban. Our approach to the future of these assets will continue to reflect that reality.”
This decision not to move on the releasing of the funds anytime soon comes about six months after US President Joe Biden signed an executive order allowing for the $7 billion in frozen assets from Afghanistan’s central bank to eventually be distributed inside the country and to potentially fund litigation brought by families of victims of the September 11 terror attacks.
The funds were frozen by the US government after the Afghan government collapsed last year and the IEA took over control of the country.
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