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Afghan War News > General Info > Development > Kajaki Dam

Kajaki Dam

The Kajaki Dam is located on the Helmand River in Helmand province. It provides irrigation (using a series of canals) and power generation to southern Afghanistan.

Kajaki Hydroelectric Dam Helmand province Afghanistan
Photo by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The Kajaki Dam is a symbol of what has gone wrong in Afghanistan. Millions of dollars have been pumped into establishing security and refurbishing the dam (to include adding a third turbine); yet the end results have been dismal. The dam and its associated power grid is supposed to provide electricity for southern Afghanistan, to include the second largest city (Kandahar) 1., in the next few years but . . .

History and Timeline of the Kajaki Dam

1950s. The dam was built by the United States in the early 1950s to provide irrigation for over 650,000 acres of arid land.

1970s. In addition, in the 1970s two turbines to generate electricity were installed. This was a time of Cold War competition with the Soviet Union.

2001. The transmission lines of the dam were put out of action by aerial bombings conducted in the initial invasion of Afghanistan.

2004. In December of 2004 work started on repairing the dam and the turbines. The first turbine was brought back online in October 2005 operating at full capacity.

2005. A third turbine was, at an initial cost of $18 million, to be installed in 2005.

2006. Black & Veatch has been associated with the Kajaki Dam since 2006.

2008. In September 2008 a British operation involving over 2,000 British troops successfully delivered a huge hydroelectric turbine and associated equipment through Taliban-controlled territory. The Brits were assisted by U.S., Canadian, Danish, Australian, and Afghan troops securing the 100-mile long road. The operation was named Oqab Tsuka but was known by the Brit troops as "T2". 3.

2010 Contract. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded a $266 million contract (sole source) to Black & Veatch to add a third turbine to the Kajaki Dam and also to conduct other refurbishment work.

2013 Contract. USAID provided a sole-source contract to Black & Veatch to provide technical assistance for the dam until November 30, 2015.

Kajaki Dam on the Helmand River in Afghanistan
Photo from ISAF Mirror September 2008

Security Issues

The location of the dam is far from ideal. The Taliban operate extensively in the area. Until 2012 firms working on the dam were able to use contract security to guard the dam, its facilities, equipment, and personnel. In 2012, in a controversial move, the Afghan government did away with the private security companies and forced development firms to use the very suspect, inefficient, and incompetent Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF).

Road to Dam Unsecured. ISAF and Afghan security forces have been unable to secure the road leading to the dam in a sustained manner over time. It can seize the road in 'a point in time' in order to deliver much-needed supplies or equipment. The power lines leading from the dam to the towns and cities in the southern provinces are frequently cut causing many 'blackouts'. Most regular traffic of supplies, equipment and personnel takes place by helicopter (a costly method).

Facts and Figures of the Kajaki Dam

Output of the Kajaki Dam. Currently, utilizing two working turbines, around 33 megawatts of electricity is generated and transmitted to areas in southern Afghanistan. Once all work is completed the Kajaki Hydro Power Plant will produce 51 MW of electricity and serve more than 227,000 people. 2.

Photos of the Kajaki Dam

Photos of the Kajaki Dam, Helmand province, Afghanistan on Cryptome

Photos and Maps on Panramoi (Kajaki Dam)

USAID Visit to Kajaki Dam - 2011 - on Flickr

USAID Photos on Kajaki Dam posted August 2015.

Turbines of Kajaki Dam Helmand Province Afghanistan
Photo by CPL Andrew Good, RC SW 2012

Publications, Briefings, and Reports about the Kajaki Dam
(listed in chronological order)

Goodson, Jeff. An Afghanistan Retrospective: The Kajaki Dam - Counterinsurgency (Part II), Real Clear Defense, September 7, 2016.

SIGAR. Letter to USAID, ISAF, DoD about U.S. government's plans to provide electric power in Kandahar after December 2014, June 10, 2014.

SIGAR. Geospatial Fact Sheet: Oversight Access for Selected U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Projects and the Kajaki Dam Project, SIGAR-14-28-SP, January 2014.

SIGAR. Letter to USAID on Kajaki Dam, December 31, 2013. The letter expresses concern to USAID about inadequate oversight on the installation of turbine No. 2.

Arjomand, Noah. Eagle's Summit Revisited: Decision-Making in the Kajaki Dam Refurbishment Project, Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN), January 25, 2013.
http://www.afghanistan-analysts.net/ . . . Kajaki_Dam . . ..pdf

ISAF, "ANSF and ISAF successfully deliver a new turbine to Kajaki Dam", ISAF Mirror, September 2008, page 19.

USAID, "Convoy Delivers USAID Turbine to Kajaki Dam", Frontlines, October 2008.

Kajakai Hydroelectric Project Condition Assessment Dam Safety Assessment Report, Acres International Corporation, Amherst, New York, April 2004.

Maps Related to the Kajaki Dam

Kajaki Dam - GeoView

Kajaki Dam Maps - Virtual Globetrotting

Kajaki Dam by wikimapia

Websites about the Kajaki Dam

Kajaki Dam. Wikipedia.

Kajaki Dam. Louis Berger Group, Inc.

Afghanistan Infrastructure and Rehabilitation Program (Kajaki Dam)

Aquastat. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Videos about the Kajaki Dam

Observation Point Athens Overlooking Kajaki Dam in Helmand Afghanistan, FOB Zeebrugee, published on June 3, 2013.

Kajaki, A British war film and true story.

News Reports about the Kajaki Dam

June 7, 2016. "Afghanistan, Turkish company sign MoU for extension of Kajaki hydropower dam", Khaama Press.

March 19, 2014. "US hopes to compete ill-fated Afghan dam project as pullout nears". Stars and Stripes.

January 14, 2014. "Kajaki Dam Project Continues to Have Problems". Afghan War News Blog. Lack of security, delayed construction, and improper management have combined to set back a huge development project that was supposed provide super results.

January 13, 2014. "What Withdrawal? U.S. Pumps More Cash Into Afghansitan's $500 Million Dam". Foreign Policy.

December 9, 2013. DABS inks contract to install final turbine at Kajaki Dam, USAID.

July 30, 2013. "Report calls Kajaki dam either hubris or commitment". USA Today.

May 5, 2013. "U.S. hands troubled dam to Afghans". LA Times.

March 7, 2013. "Kajaki Dam Project Turned Over to Afghans by USAID". Afghan War News Blog. USAID is turning the project over to the Afghan state-run electricity company (DABS).

January 30, 2013. "Failed Afghan dam project offered British military redemption after Iraq debacle". The Telegraph. British complete huge military operation for the Kajaki Dam.

January 6, 2013. "Kajaki dam: The great white elephant of Afghanistan". The Independent.

June 26, 2012. "Army divers support South District work at critical Afghan dams". DVIDS.

June 25, 2012. Corps of Engineers to improve access to water, power in southern Afghanistan, United States Army Corps of Engineers Press Release.

December 15, 2011. "A Dam Shame: What a Stalled Hydropower Project Says About Failures in Afghanistan". Time.

July 14, 2011. "Improvements to Kajaki dam power potential in southern Afghanistan". Regional Command Southwest Press Room.

December 13, 2009. "Taliban stalls key hydroelectric turbine project in Afghanistan". The Guardian.

November 10, 2008. "Turbine to My Heart". Foreign Policy Association.

November 8, 2008. "Deep in Taliban Territory, a Push for Electricity". The New York Times. News article provides info on the delivery of the third turbine to the Kajaki Dam.

April 24, 2008. Restoring an Afghan Dam in a Taliban Stronghold, National Public Radio. Engineers try to fix a 50-year old dam in the heart of the Taliban insurgency.

February 12, 2007. "Hundreds of Taliban massing to attack dam - official". Reuters.




1. For more on the Kajaki Dam providing power to Kandahar see "Report: 2nd largest Afghan city could go dark when U.S. subsidies end", McClatchy DC, August 5, 2014 at this link.

2. The 51 MW of electricity figure comes from Black & Veatch webpage on the Kajaki Hydro Power Plant.

3. For more info on movement of the turbine see "UK troops in huge turbine mission", BBC News, September 2, 2008.




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