DUSHANBE, March 6, 2013, Asia-Plus – An article “Importance of Roghun Dam for the War on Terror” posted on forbes.com website on March 4 notes that Tajikistan may hold a key to economic and political progress in the region that is vital to U.S. and NATO security interests in regards to the War on Terror.

“An energy-hungry emerging economy, Tajikistan is about to embark on a historic construction of the Roghun Dam – a structure that will power the world’s tallest hydro-electric plant providing cheap, secure and sustainable energy to Tajikistan, and its neighbors, including the Northern regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“After a prolonged military and nation-building engagement in South-Central Asia, the U.S. troops are scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014, with Afghan forces taking a leading security role in their country.  The withdrawal – a political imperative in terms of U.S. domestic and foreign policy – will leave Afghan authorities and the rest of the region in a precarious situation.  According to the national intelligence agency of Afghanistan, reduction of the international military contingent will allow the Taliban insurgents to draw upon a vast supply of new recruits and to change its tactics from slow and episodic outbursts to far more destructive attacks on the government in Kabul and on its allies across the country.  According to a recent report by Bloomberg, without a clear vision of maintaining democracy in Afghanistan, the return of Taliban to power is all but inevitable after 2014.

“To restrain the imminent resurgence of Taliban in Afghanistan and to prevent the spread of its influence throughout the region, Western partners need to spare no effort in developing economic conditions and business opportunities in the war-ravaged country.  The U.S. Congress and Department of Defense would be able to leave a lasting legacy in Afghanistan of growth and prosperity not a resurgence of the Taliban and terrorism by fully supporting the Roghun Dam project.  According to countless academic studies, economic development is a prerequisite to the survival of democracy. Without comprehensive economic development Afghanistan and the entire region will be much more vulnerable to the entrenchment of radical regimes that control the few sources of revenue, including narcotics trade and “foreign aid” from Saudi and Pakistani-based Islamists.

“A comprehensive economic development, however, is impossible without a secure and plentiful supply of inexpensive energy. From smallest family-run businesses to international corporations and infrastructure projects, energy is needed to power machines, computers, cash registers and countless other devices, making electricity a life-blood of a healthy economy.   In Central Asia, the heart of this energy system should be Tajikistan’s Roghun Dam.  The Dam is projected to be the tallest such construction in the world, spanning 335 meters.  Upon successful completion this tremendous hydroelectric power plant would provide clean and inexpensive electricity to meet the energy needs of not only Tajikistan but also of the northern regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, regions of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and other nearby nations.

“Quite importantly, leaders of the regions’ energy-hungry nations appreciate the benefits of potential energy exports, and have thrown their political weight behind the drive for energy sufficiency.  In 2007 Asian Development Bank agreed to sponsor The Central Asia-South Asia Regional Electricity Market (CASAREM) – an agreement among governments of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Pakistan to develop infrastructure for electricity exports of 1300MW from Central Asia to South Asia.  The presence of this transmission and trading infrastructure would allow electricity from Roghun to reach millions of households and businesses across the region, bringing economic opportunities as well as a chance for a survival of moderate, pro-Western governments in Central and South Asia.

“Due to the size of the Dam, the neighboring country of Uzbekistan has raised tensions in regards of building Roghun Dam.  Mostly over their fear of potential impact that restricted water flow in the Vakhsh River would do to the irrigation of their cotton crops.  During the design and engineering phases of the Roghun Dam, considerable attention was given to the issue of protecting downstream agricultural dependency on the free flow of adequate water supplies for irrigation of Uzbekistan’s cotton industry.  The fact is that the design of Roghun Dam guarantees that a robust supply of water from the Vakhsh River will always reach all of the downstream territories.   Roghun’s design, including more than 70 kilometers (43 miles) of under-mountain tunnels, provides for substantial amounts of the River to flow to Uzbekistan and beyond without flowing through the dam structure at all.

“Without a doubt, the Roghun Dam project should appear high on priority lists not only of Tajik and Afghan governments, but also on the agenda of international institutions such as the IMF, the World Bank and U.S. agencies such as USAID.”