Seventeen months after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan on 15 August 2021, little has been done to address local level grievances and disputes that have fuelled decades of conflict. This report, based on field research conducted from October 2021 to March 2022 in Helmand province, strongly argues that these grievances risk erupting into renewed violence and further destabilising the country.
The Salah Consortium, a consortium of 6 Afghan civil society organisations, conducted a survey in order to give ordinary Afghans a voice in the peace process and to learn about their expectations. Responses of the survey show, that the people perceive a more prominent role for civil society, tribal elders and other members of society, while the current process is largely driven by foreigners and the Afghan political elite.
Keeping in view the long-time security-centred nature of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations, Kabul River Basin, a highly significant geographical and thematic area of concern, requires immediate attention of authorities. However, the issue remains virtually absent from the script of inter-state relations and diplomacy. The key proposition in this study is that if the transboundary basin management discourse about the Kabul River Basin can be changed from water-sharing to benefit-sharing across the water, food, and energy sectors, the social conditions and political will needed for long-term state-to-state engagement can be created without jeopardizing the lives and livelihoods of basin-dependent communities during the intervening period.
In terms of having water resources, Afghanistan has a considerable advantage in comparison to its neighbors. However, war and other various factors have limited the country’s ability to make use of these resources. Water infrastructure—including dams, water storage tanks, irrigation and water supply networks, hydrometric stations and metrology systems, and sewage and sanitation systems—is limited and inefficient.
In recent years, the role and position of civil society organizations in dealing with local and regional crises are seen considering a new approach that requires finding common grounds, exchange of ideas and cooperation among civil society organizations functional in that specific region. Afghanistan and Pakistan have had complex and at times fragile political and security relations and in the meanwhile the two countries are tied in an unavoidable and undeniable trade and economic interdependency.
Water quantity and quality are deteriorating and the struggle among all common water users is likely to intensify. This may become even more visible in river basins that cross political boundaries of different countries. History reveals that in many situations, this mutual need may bring strategic cooperation rather than open conflict, and lead to peaceful solutions to water disputes. Over the last 67 years, we have witnessed only 37 severe water disputes globally, in comparison to 295 water cooperation treaties (UN Water 2008: 3).