Not so Quiet on the Western Front: The Snowball Effect in Afghanistan

The deteriorating security in western Afghanistan may soon be worsened by a water crisis. A snowballing militancy, desiccating wetlands, and environmental migration create a trifecta of challenges to test the mettle of the Afghan government and complicate its already-tense relations with Iran.

 

In western Afghanistan, intense and increasingly frequent skirmishes between armed groups and the Afghan forces reflect a decidedly stronger militancy. At least three distinct militant groups operate in the area: the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Islamic State (IS), and the Taliban. Although they maintain divergent interests, they cooperate to fight against the Afghan security forces. In 2015, the northwestern provinces of Afghanistan began showing signs of distress as the Taliban sprung up in Faryab, Jowzjan, and Sarépul. In three years, the Taliban have ventured further south to Farah and Herat, taking key areas along a strategic corridor for both Afghanistan and Iran.

 

The incidents in Farah province are crucial to accurately analyzing the security situation in Afghanistan. Anar Dara, in Farah province, was on the verge of collapse in March 2018 before the Afghan forces repelled the Taliban. Less than 200 kilometers south of Anar Dara lies Hamouné Puzak, a parching lake and a source of livelihood for the local communities. It is part of three bodies of water plagued by drought – one entirely in Iran (Hamouné Helmand), another partly in Afghanistan (Hamouné Saberi), and Hamouné Puzak, which is mostly in Afghanistan. The water shortage has strained life in the already-harsh desert environment and compelled the communities to migrate to less arid areas.

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