Afghan army launches military operation to restore power to Kabul

By SLOBODAN LEKIC | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 2, 2016

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan forces have launched an operation against Taliban insurgents who have caused rolling blackouts in the capital by cutting power lines from the north, a military statement said Tuesday.

The operation has already succeeded in pushing insurgents out of some areas of Baghlan province, the statement said. It gave no indication of how long the operation would last.

A week ago, insurgents toppled or damaged several electricity towers in Baghlan that transmit power from neighboring Uzbekistan to the north. The damaged lines account for 280 megawatts of the capital’s daily 600-megawatt consumption.

Repair crews sent out by the national power utility have been unable to access the damaged lines because of landmines and the presence of insurgents in nearby hills, company executives said.

Abdul Rashid, deputy chief of the Baghlan police, said on Tuesday that the Taliban had cut down three more pylons in the past several days. He said police officers had met with tribal elders in the Dand-e-Shahabudin area to get the Taliban to stop damaging the power lines. Tribal elders are often asked to help solve disputes in rural areas of Afghanistan, and local authorities and the insurgents sometimes use them as intermediaries.

The blackouts, which sometimes last 18 hours a day, have forced residents and businesses that normally rely on the municipal power grid to use expensive private generators instead, or to endure the midwinter cold without heating.

The Taliban, who recently pledged to avoid actions that hit ordinary Afghans, could not be reached for comment on the power cuts.

Last winter, Kabul suffered from rolling blackouts for more than a month after heavy snow and avalanches damaged a number of steel-lattice towers carrying transmission lines through the mountains from power suppliers in Central Asia.

Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.



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