The Taliban’s Qush Tepa Canal Step

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Although the Taliban have been ruling Afghanistan since August 2021, it has not been recognized by any country in the international arena. It also faces the problem of legitimacy within the country.  In order to overcome these, it tries to increase its dialogue with various countries and to ensure effectiveness through diplomatic missions. In addition, it aims to strengthen its presence in the administration by taking some steps in domestic politics. At this point, the Qush Tepa Canal Project stands out as a step of great importance for the Taliban.

The Taliban announced on March 31, 2022 that a canal project was launched to use the water of the Amudarya River. The project starts from Kaldar district of Balkh province and ends in Andhoy district of Faryab province.[1] It is known to be 280 km long, 100 meters wide and 8.5 meters deep. Its total cost is estimated to be around 680 million dollars (60 billion Afs).[2]

When the canal is completed, it will have the opportunity to irrigate 500 thousand hectares of land in the provinces of Balkh, Jawzjan and Faryab. The canal, which is planned to have a water carrying capacity of 650 cubic meters per second, is planned to be completed in 2028 and to solve the water problem in the mentioned regions.[3]

However, it is expected to make a significant contribution to the diversity and production amount of agricultural products in the country. This situation will enable the country to become self-sufficient in agricultural products, as well as to export grain.[4] Therefore, it is seen that the project is of great importance in terms of internal development and external expansion.

The first stage of the three-phase project, 108 km long, starts from the Amudarya River and reaches Dawlatabad district of Balkh province.The second stage, starting from Dawlatabad in Balkh, passing through Aqchi district of Jawzjan province and reaching Andhoy district of Faryab province has a length of 177 km. The third step involves the distribution of sub-channels to agricultural lands.[5]

The Taliban attach great importance to the aforementioned project. It can be said that they see this job as an indicator of proving himself. For this reason, intensive activities are being carried out to complete and implement the canal as soon as possible. In the statement made by the Taliban, it was stated that 5,500 people were working simultaneously at 120 points to speed up the works on the construction of the canal. At the same time, it has been announced that more than 3,300 machines are in use.

Over 200 local companies also work as subcontractors under the supervision of the Afghanistan National Development Corporation. It is known that the Taliban made the first phase of the project worth 91 million dollars with their own revenues. For the next two phases, funds are planned to be obtained from the sale of the mines, primarily the Dar-e-Souph Mine.[6]

In the statement made by Zabihullah Amiri, the Head of the Project, on March 29, 2023, it was stated that 70% of the construction works of the first phase were completed and approximately 7,000 people were employed in the project. It was also stated that the first phase will be completed in a shorter time than planned.[7]

It seems that the Taliban have set the project as a high priority. For this reason, it tries to carry out the works as quickly as possible. News that more than one third of the canal has been excavated is on the agenda. It can be said that the project has a symbolic significance for the Taliban officials, who stated that they assured the nation that this project would be completed at any cost.

The canal is an important test of the Taliban’s ability to rule. Emphasizing that they benefit from the national budget in the construction of the project, the Taliban try to highlight self-sufficiency in the development of the country and to give the message that there is no need for external support. It can be said that the Taliban also aim to reduce international pressures through the canal. In this sense, the Taliban administration is willing to provide assurance for the future by showing what it can do. In this way, it also aims to show that progress can be made towards the goals of taking part in regional projects and attracting investment to the country.

In addition to all these, the project is likely to cause some new tensions in regional balances. In this respect, while the Taliban is trying to prove itself inside; it can be predicted that there will be difficulties in foreign relations. Because after the collapse of the Soviet Union, no agreement was made between the Central Asian countries and Afghanistan on the water of Amudarya.[8] However, it can be said that the water equations and status quo in Central Asia may change in the near future with the Qush Tepa Canal Project.

[1] “1st phase of Qush Tepa Canal Project Due to Complete”, The Kabul Times,, (Date of Accession: 04.04.2023).

[2] “Canal Project to Employ 200,000 People”, Tolo News,, (Date of Accession: 04.04.2023).

[3] “Qush Tepa Canal to be Completed Before Scheduled Date”, Pajhwok,, (Date of Accession: 04.04.2023).

[4] “Tolibon Hukumati Amudaryodan Qo’shtepa Nomli Mega Kanal Loyihasini Boshlamoqda (10/12/2022)”, Umirdinov,, (Date of Accession: 04.04.2023).

[5] Ibid.

[6] “Afghanistan is Building an Enormous Canal to Draw Water From Amudarya River. This May Affect Water Availability Situation in Central Asia”, News Central Asia,, (Date of Accession: 04.04.2023).

[7] “1st phase of …”, op.cit.

[8] “Legality of Taliban’s New Qosh Tepa Canal From Amu Darya”, Uzbekistan Law Blog,, (Date of Accession: 04.04.2023).

Şeyma KIZILAY, 2016 yılında Erciyes Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2019 yılında Kırşehir Ahi Evran Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda sunduğu ‘’Uluslararası İlişkilerde Ulus İnşası Bağlamında Irak Örneği” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Doktora eğitimine Uludağ Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda devam eden Kızılay, tez aşamasındadır. Başlıca çalışma alanları; güvenlik, terörizm, Afganistan ve Pakistan’dır. Kızılay, iyi derecede İngilizce ve orta seviyede Arapça bilmektedir.