Photo: @MoMPAfghanistan via X

Taliban Contracts Qatari Companies to Produce Cement

The Taliban Ministry of Mines and Petroleum has signed a $220 million contract with Qatari companies to revive the Jabal Siraj Cement Factory. The project is expected to produce 1.5 million tons of cement per year and create around 5,000 direct jobs.

The contract was signed by Taliban Minister for Mines and Petroleum Shahabuddin Delawar and representatives of the Qatari companies on Thursday, October 12. The Taliban’s chief spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, stated in a post on X (formerly known as Twitter) that the project would last for 30 years.  

The Jabal Siraj Cement Factory, a government-owned factory located in eastern Parwan province, Afghanistan, was established in 1957 with an initial investment of more than half a million dollars. It was the primary supplier of cement to all national projects, such as water reservoirs, roads, government buildings, bridges, and factories. However, due to war and political conflict, the factory has not been able to operate at its full capacity in recent years. In late 2020, the republic government attempted to rehabilitate and equip the factory with the necessary machinery to increase its production capacity. However, the rehabilitation efforts were suspended for undisclosed reasons.

Afghanistan has three additional cement plants in the northern Baghlan, western Herat, and central Samangan provinces. In June 2023, the Taliban Minister for Mines and Petroleum announced plans to build five more cement factories in five provinces in order to “achieve self-sufficiency”, as the country currently imports almost 99% of its cement from Pakistan and Iran.

Qatar has a long-standing relationship with the Taliban. The country played host to the peace negotiations between the United States and the Taliban, which resulted in a peace agreement between the two parties and the subsequent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. The Taliban authorities have previously urged the government of Qatar and Qatari companies to invest in Afghanistan’s oil and gas sector, citing the country’s extensive experience in oil extraction.

The Taliban have signed a series of mining deals since returning to power in Afghanistan. In late August, they signed seven major mining contracts worth around $6.5 billion with companies from Afghanistan,  Türkiye, Iran, and China. In January 2023, they signed a $540 million deal with the Chinese company Xinjiang Central Asia Petroleum and Gas Co (CAPEIC) to extract oil from northern Afghanistan’s Amu Darya basin.

The Taliban’s focus on mining has been criticized by some, who argue that the group is selling off the country’s natural resources to foreign companies. They have also criticized the lack of transparency surrounding the group’s mining deals. The Taliban, however, claims to be striving for self-sufficiency by developing the country’s natural resources.

The Taliban leaders have repeatedly invited foreign investors to invest in Afghanistan’s energy, mining, agriculture, transportation, and healthcare sectors, promising to provide security and facilities throughout the country. However, the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment (ACCI) urged the Taliban authorities to put the national interest first when awarding mining contracts to foreign investors and to give priority to domestic companies.