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Parwan Province Blackouts and Missile Attack at Erbil Oil Refinery and 3000 Flee Sinjar

April 28 - May 4, 2022 | Issue 5 - CENTCOM

Marco Parks, Sofia Pantoula, Muskan Muskan, CENTCOM Team

Justin Maurina, Editor; Jennifer Loy, Chief of Staff

Electricity Line from Tajikistan to Afghanistan[1]

Date: April 30, 2022

Location: Parwan Province, Afghanistan

Parties involved: Taliban Government of Afghanistan; Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS); DABS electricity company spokesman Hekmatullah Maiwandi; ISIS-K; Afghan citizens; Uzbekistan; Tajikistan

The event: Millions of people across 11 provinces in Afghanistan experienced electricity blackouts on Saturday after two power transmission towers were blown up in Parwan Province, west of Kabul. Hekmatullah Maiwandi said that temporary repairs would partially restore power by Saturday night before complete restoration finished in two weeks. Police said they arrested two people over the explosions but withheld the perpetrators’ identities, affiliations, and motivations. Afghanistan relies mainly on electricity imported from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, making cross-country power lines prime targets for insurgents.[2] ISIS-K claimed responsibility for several deadly attacks targeting the minority Shia and Sufi communities recently, killing dozens of civilians.[3]

Analysis & Implications:

  • ISIS-K likely targeted the electric power systems to enhance their attacks and cause massive disruptions across Afghanistan. The Taliban likely increased security in heavily populated areas after ISIS-K’s attacks, turning power transmission towers into soft targets due to limited Taliban forces guarding power transmitters. ISIS-K will likely increase attacks during the next few days taking advantage of the electricity shortage, leading to more civilian casualties. Should the Taliban prove unable to prevent future attacks, a resurgence of the extremist group will likely occur in Afghanistan.

  • Transmission tower attacks will likely force the healthcare sectors to limit operations amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Regular power cuts will very likely make hospital equipment inoperative, disrupting medical operations and aggravating the health situation in the country. Rising COVID infections will likely overcrowd hospitals, impacting patient care and preventing hospitals from admitting new patients. The deteriorating condition of the hospitals will likely increase the death rate in the country, turning civilians against the authorities.

Date: May 1, 2022

Location: Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq

Parties involved: KRG Prime Minister (PM) Masrour Barzani; Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG); Iraqi Security Forces; Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC); Iran-aligned militia; Europe

The event: A missile attack targeting an oil refinery in Erbil started a fire in one of the main tanks. The counterterrorism unit of the KRG said that six missiles were launched from the town of Bartella in neighboring Nineveh province, but no group claimed responsibility. KRG forces found and defused a launchpad and four rockets in the Nineveh Plain after the attack. On March 28, KRG PM Masrour Barzani said that the Kurdistan region is going to become an exporter of natural gas to other countries.[4]

Analysis & Implications:

  • Iraqi Security Forces and the KRG will almost certainly heighten the city’s security. Counterterrorism operations in Nineveh province will very likely lead to clashes with Iran-aligned militia. Should these skirmishes result in the deaths of Iran-aligned militiamen, Iran's IRGC will likely launch missile strikes against oil facilities in Erbil, as it did previously. Further attacks that strike valuable equipment or casualties will likely trigger Iraq’s partners’ diplomatic and military response by enhancing missile defense capabilities.

  • There is a roughly even chance that Iran-aligned militia attacked the oil refinery to undermine Kurdish leaders’ aspirations to export energy to Europe. Europe will likely consider strengthening ties with the KRG to reduce reliance on Russian energy. If such energy agreements materialize, they will likely undermine Iranian energy interests in the region, likely leading to further tensions. There is a roughly even chance that Iran will respond by exerting pressure on Iraq and western powers to revive the nuclear deal to lift international sanctions imposed on the state.

Date: May 2, 2022

Location: Sinjar, Iraq

Parties involved: Iraqi army; Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS); Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK); internally displaced people (IDP); Extremist Kurds

The event: 3,000 people fled Sinjar due to clashes between the Iraqi army and the YBS, a militia linked to the PKK. Clashes began on Sunday, May 1, when the Iraqi army launched an operation to remove YBS checkpoints in Sinjar, undermining Iraqi government authority. Fighting has spread in the region, triggering a refugee wave towards Kurdish controlled territory in Iraq.[5]

Analysis & Implications:

  • The exodus will likely increase Kurdish extremism because asylum seekers will likely blame the Iraqi government for their plight. Extremist Kurds will likely use terrorist means instead of constructing an organized force to target combatants because the Kurdish population is smaller but better-equipped than the Iraqi army. Kurdish extremists will likely target civilians and Iraqi resource centers to strengthen Kurdish morale, attract international attention to the Kurdish cause, and attract more Kurdish recruits to fight the Iraqi regime.

  • The influx of IDPs into the semi-autonomous Kurdish region will likely strain the regional government’s capacity for housing, law enforcement, and economic production. This pressure will likely spur increased lawlessness, providing more freedom for criminal activity due to the increased resentful individuals and diminished law enforcement capacity. Reduced capability to give shelter to the increasing number of IDPs will likely lead to grievances among asylum seekers, further taxing law enforcement’s ability to maintain stability among the diaspora. These new IDP residents in the Kurdish region of Iraq will likely be unemployed for an extended period of time, thus straining the regional economy and driving the prices of goods up.

________________________________________________________________________ The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)

[2] ​​Blasts cut power to millions in Afghanistan, DAWN News, May 2022,

[4] Kurdistan Region to become ‘net exporter’ of natural gas to Iraq, Turkey, and Europe in ‘near future’: PM Barzani, Kurdistan 24, March 2022,,-Turkey,-and-Europe-in-%E2%80%98near-future%E2%80%99:-PM-Barzani

[5] Thousands flee after clashes erupt in embattled Iraqi town, Associated Press, May 2022,



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