Our Military in Afghanistan is in increased danger as the report today of a rogue soldier killing 16 Afghan civilians hit the news. As our troops are condemned, and as they are targeted by both Afghan soldiers, police and civilians, we must remember what our goal in Afghanistan has been after rendering brutal punishment to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Afghanis had been with Taliban murder and terror for years. We set goals to rid the country of the Taliban’s terror with the approval of the Afghan government, and goals to help the people find something agricultural to grow other than the poppy to support the Taliban’s opium trade. In the meantime, we tried to buy allegiance with American taxpayer funding. We have spent BILLIONS of dollars, with BILLIONS more allocated for the country. Our troops have toiled in the brutal cold of Afghanistan and in the brutal heat of the country to aid contractors building roads, bridges, dams, channels, schools, power plants and businesses. Poppy trade is bigger than ever. Note that Reuters is reporting eye-witnesses saying the killings this morning were by a group of drunk and laughing Americans who burned the bodies of those they killed. Nevermind, that the report is not true, as far as we know, Reuters reported it anyway. More Americans will die. We cannot save Afghans from their savage life under Islam. It isn’t possible. Bring every American man and woman home.
Take a look at some of the projects designed to make life better for Afghanis:
The U.S. Inspector General for the Commission on Wartime Contracting says security for our troops is so dismal in Afghanistan that BILLIONS OF TAXPAYER DOLLARS are jeopardized.
The retired Marine general [Maj. Gen. Arnold Fields] criticized the military’s Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan for an inability to develop a long-term capital construction plan. For example, CSTC-A has 884 construction projects it intends to build by the end of fiscal 2012. But Fields noted that only 133 of those projects had been completed as of November 2010 and another 78 were under construction. The remaining 673 projects have not been started…
Maj. General Jeffrey Dorko, deputy commanding general for military and international operations at the Army Corps of Engineers, told the panel that ongoing violence and security concerns have slowed construction projects.
“Lack of security limits our ability to travel to construction sites and provide quality assurance by Corps personnel,” Dorko said. “The hostile environment in Afghanistan can make it difficult to provide quality assurance and project oversight on all projects at all times and certainly not at the same level as we could in a secure environment.”
One day in November 2009, in Helmand province’s capital of Lashkar Gah, a group of Afghan widows and divorcees met with Patricia, who had been commissioned to write a series of success stories for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). All the women were in their 20s, 30s, and 40s but looked to be in their 60s. Until very recently, none of them could work because they possessed no marketable skills, could neither read nor write, and were at risk of being killed if they left their homes. A number of women said that, before the program — which focused on tailoring and basic literacy — their children used to weep at night from hunger.
As Patricia prepared to leave, the women fluttered around her like moths, touching her sleeves and speaking all at once. “What are they saying?” Pat asked the young Pashto-speaking interpreter. “They are telling you to go back to your country and to ask your people not to abandon them. The women of Afghanistan don’t want you to leave. They will quite literally die if the Taliban return,” she said.
You looked at a couple of these sorts of programs set up in particular since the Obama surge began. These exist outside the formal Afghan police and army structure. What was the thinking behind it? Why do this?
JEAN MACKENZIE, GlobalPost: Well, the thinking behind it was to increase the numbers of security forces as quickly as possible, and to try to get some handle on a situation that is deteriorating quite rapidly.
They wanted to use the disaffection that many communities feel towards the Taliban, focus that, and direct it in a form that has a chance of counteracting the insurgency.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, let’s look at the first one you looked at, which was one in Wardak Province, fairly close to Kabul. The road between the two just last year, early last year, was a — pretty much a no-go zone. Marines went in there and also set up a local militia. How did it operate and what were the results?
JEAN MACKENZIE: It operated by bringing about 1,200 men into something called the Afghan Public Protection Program, or AP3 for short.
These men, many of whom had returned from working abroad, some of whom had come in from joining the Taliban, were given a salary of approximately $180 a month. They were given three weeks of training, a uniform, empowered to carry a gun, and told to — to protect their communities.
They were not formal police. They were not auxiliary police. They were more of a community watch-type program — only, they were armed.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, you reported that, actually, the province did become more secure. Yet, this model has not been replicated elsewhere. Why is that?
JEAN MACKENZIE: Well, the province did become more secure in part. And many people, including the governor, attribute this to the Afghan Public Protection Program.
However, it’s equally possible that the increase in security is owed to the fact that U.S. Marines established a base at about the same time. What they have found is that the program has had very limited success. It has in many ways become a magnet for the Taliban. There is a certain amount of coordination and collaboration between the AP3 and the Taliban that people do not understand, that the Americans do not seem to understand very well.
And the thinking is that there are better ways of trying to do this.
A new school in Kabul for girls was desperately needed. The female students were jam-packed in overcrowded, dilapidated buildings, trying to learn under horrendous conditions. USAID was there to help.
Providing design, funding, and construction, USAID built a new Sardar Kabuli High School. As this USAID project moved forward, the utilities were an intricate part of making the school a state of the art facility for the students to learn. Water, wastewater, and electricity were all part of the plan. USAID made sure that international standards were met and quality workmanship as well as reliable products were used.
Before entering the building, more than 6,000 students and teachers change into a clean pair of shoes, carried in their bags, to help keep this beautiful school clean.
The newly opened school has the solid infrastructure needed to help eager students learn for generations to come.
A school for girls is a wonderful thing. Now that the opportunity is there, the problem is getting from home to school without having acid thrown in your face by a fellow Afghan or being kidnapped and raped.
Tasked to implement the preparatory work for construction of a road that will connect Afghanistan’s northern towns of Bamyan and Dushi, USAID’s Afghanistan Infrastructure Rehabilitation Program (AIRP) laid the groundwork for more than a road. It also helped build a community’s educational resources.
As part of its outreach efforts, USAID AIRP team had collaborated regularly with local communities and shuras to discuss the value of road-building projects and gain community support for such initiatives…
In late 2011, a large number of district and education officials gathered to formally declare the opening of the new Kunj Shur School to a crowd of children and their teachers. The District Governor spoke about the value of education to a child’s life and pointed out that education is the future of Afghanistan. Now, 350 children have registered with the Kunj Shur School. Of the students, 60% are boys and 40% are girls.
Shortly after the establishment of the new school, the AIRP [US AID Afghanistan Infrastructure Rehabilitation Program]team decided to raise funds among themselves to buy school supplies for the students. The district of Tala Wa Barfak is very poor and many of the students had no means with which to buy even the most basic school supplies.
Members of USAID AIRP team contributed $1,200 to buy notebooks, pencils, erasers, rulers, chalk and boards, school bags, and even winter clothing for students and teachers. The supplies were distributed to over 100 students at the Kunj Shur School – a small gesture with potentially long-lasting impact.
USAID, through its Afghanistan Infrastructure Rehabilitation Program, recently completed construction of the Regak Bridge located in the volatile Uruzgan province. Straddling the Shakur River, the bridge was constructed in an area faced with border disputes, insurgency, drug trafficking, and river flooding due to snow melt and rain.
Construction of the bridge has directly benefitted the local population in many ways. While under construction, the project provided positive stabilization impact. Locally hired labor and material purchases provided a significant economic boost to the area.
Completed in December 2011, the bridge now links approximately 70,000 previously isolated villagers, increasing their access to social services, health and education and providing easy access for farm-to-market trade. The single-lane bridge can safely take up to 26 tons so heavy transport trucks can now carry goods and produce to the southern area of Uruzgan province.
Founded in 1931, Kabul University is the oldest and largest institution of higher learning in Afghanistan. The university is recognized internationally and its credentials are renowned but its rich culture, history, and academic excellence have been devastated by decades of wars and instability.
However, Kabul University has been recently experiencing tremendous growth. Today, the number of students hovers around the 10,000 mark, resulting in overcrowding of current facilities. To alleviate this condition a number of new buildings are being constructed. Among them is a men’s dormitory.
Although designed for 800 students, the old dorm held more than
2,400 men. A USAID project renovated and expanded the dorm with new roofing, windows, and doors, and upgraded the electrical, heating, fire suppression, and water supply systems. USAID also provided new furniture and constructed separate dining and laundry facilities.
The new men’s facilities, such as the dining facility building, are major improvements at the university. Making room for the ever-bulging population of students is critical. Enrollment is higher than it has ever been. Mahammad Zamir is attending Kabul University and lives in the new facility. He lived in the old dorm before moving into the new one. “The old dorm was crowded and cold. The new one is very nice and the bedrooms are awesome,” said Mahammad.
Having a more comfortable space to live, study, eat, and do the mundane chores such as laundry, will allow the students a more favorable place to learn. Kabul University has long been a place where scholars flourished. With the new facilities, it is on its way to being that place once again.
Four to five hours a night was all the electricity that Sufyane Village in Parwan Province had ever experienced.
Very few families were able to afford those few hours provided by a privately owned generator. USAID and the committed people of Afghanistan stepped in to make it possible for the entire village to have electricity.
A concerted effort is underway to provide electric power throughout Afghanistan. The electric company, Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat, has built a large distribution line along the highway from Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, to Charikar in the Kohdaman Valley, the capital of Parwan Province in northern Afghanistan. The line follows the road 69 km from Kabul. Unfortunately, many villages along the route did not receive electric services from the line. To deal with this, USAID is installing transformers to help connect 42 villages in Parwan Province to the main line. Sufyane Village is the first to be connected.
USAID worked with Afghan engineers for much of the project support. These engineers worked closely with local residents to determine their needs, identified the number of family members to be served, and worked with police and local leaders to correctly assess the demand based on the number of houses and buildings.
The result was a community that was delighted with the new ability to light up their homes. The entire village celebrated when the switch was thrown to turn on the electricity in Sufyane. One local villager said, “Family activities extend into the night due to the availability of interior lighting and village life is made more pleasant.” Another happily shared, “We are very glad that modernization is finally available to us as we did not have this before.” Children are now able to see to complete their school homework at night, women can work in the home to take care of their families, and the village is a safer place to live.
Upon completion, the project will provide electricity to residences, schools, government buildings, bazaars, and small factories in these 42 villages and, in Sufyane’s case, the milk processing plant.
USAID began building roads, schools, and clinics in 2002 to demonstrate immediate progress to the Afghan people. While these projects continue, USAID is shifting its focus to improve energy and power. The building and refurbishing of infrastructure boosts economic growth and agricultural yields, connects rural Afghans to services, and provides schools, clinics, and courthouses for its citizens.
During today’s ceremony at the Tarakhil Power Plant near Kabul, a state-of-the art National Load Control Center has been officially transferred to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker, USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah, Mission Director Ken Yamashita, Acting Minister of Energy and Water Mohammad Ismail Khan, and Chief Executive Officer of Da Breshna Afghanistan (DABS) Abdul Razique Samadi took part in the official handover ceremony.
The National Load Control Center is a USAID-funded project, which enables the control of Afghanistan’s entire North East Power System (NEPS) and ensures the supply of reliable and affordable energy to meet the needs of more than 600,000 of industrial, commercial and residential users.
“I want to thank the the United States Government for helping Afghanistan strengthen the safety and reliability of our North East Power System,” said Ismail Khan, Acting Minister of Energy and Water. “This impressively modern load center is another proof that Afghanistan has definitely gotten out of the dark ages and on the road to prosperity.”
At the event today, the United States also signed a Statement of Collaboration on Power Transmission, Expansion and Connectivity with the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Energy and Water, and DABS, the national utility company to implement U.S. Government-funded Power Transmission Expansion and Connectivity Program (PTEC). This is a $1.2 billion four year on-budget program designed to modernize Afghanistan’s generation, transmission, and distribution infrastructures.
“These foundational investments – including major power infrastructure projects – are building the economic and governance tools to allow the Afghans to manage and fund their own future,” said Ambassador Crocker.
During his speech, Administrator Shah emphasized that United States Development Agency will continue to support significant infrastructure investments in Afghanistan. “Our collaboration today will help build a solid foundation for Afghan ownership over critical infrastructure and enable an energy-secure future for the Afghan people,” said Dr. Shah.
U.S. Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry and Minister of Public Works H.E. Abdul Qudos Hamidi joined local officials today as emergency repair work on the Salang Tunnel resumed. Completed by the Soviets in 1962, the tunnel is in a state of serious disrepair. Without emergency repairs, funded by USAID, the tunnel will soon become impassable for much of the year and hazardous for motorists. Improvements resulting from this project will keep traffic flowing until complete rehabilitation of the tunnel is accomplished.
Today’s event reinforces the partnership between the United States and Afghanistan. USAID worked closely with the Ministry of Public Works in the planning, designing, and bidding processes for the emergency repair work, with Minister Hamidi providing leadership. The ministry will oversee road closures and public notices and perform 1.2 km of asphalt paving inside the tunnel, while USAID will pave the remaining 1.4 km of the tunnel and the approach galleries…
While only 2.6 km long, the Salang Tunnel is arguably the most important stretch of highway in Afghanistan, with about 7,000 vehicles passing daily through the Hindu Kush between northern Afghanistan and Kabul. There are no alternative all-weather routes for transit between northern and southeastern Afghanistan. Alternate routes traverse through rough mountain passes at high elevations. Most include sections of narrow, unpaved trails with variable stream and river crossings. Long winters make passage via these alternate routes impossible for months at a time. Keeping the Salang Tunnel passable to increasing traffic is vital to the security and economy of Afghanistan.
Complete rehabilitation of the tunnel is needed for the long term. USAID plans to fund the design. The World Bank is expected to support the permanent reconstruction work beginning in 2014 after completion of an alternate bypass route, the Dushi – Bamyan – Parwan Highway.
Officials from Kabul University and the U.S. Government inaugurated the Kabul University Renewable Energy Laboratory (KURE Lab) today with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour of the facility. The KURE Lab is intended to serve as a multipurpose facility for renewable energy education, research, component testing, and evaluation for engineers. USAID established the KURE Lab through its Afghanistan Clean Energy Program (ACEP) in collaboration with Kabul University. The lab is part of the Faculty of Engineering.
“The U.S. Government, through USAID, is dedicated to bringing Afghanistan the benefits of clean, renewable energy generated by the sun, water, and wind. The laboratory will ensure the self-sustainability of renewable energy projects implemented throughout Afghanistan,” said Deputy Ambassador E. Anthony Wayne at the opening ceremony.
Now that the refurbishment is completed, the KURE Lab is becoming the focus of an even broader range of activities designed to promote self-sufficiency in renewable energy projects in Afghanistan. Training on solar streetlights and solar home systems has been provided to the private-sector and non-governmental organizations. The Ministry of Rehabilitation and Rural Development has been able to verify the quality of photovoltaic modules by bringing them to the lab for testing.
The Governor of Badakhshan Province and community leaders officially dedicated the successful installation of 60 solar-powered streetlights at a ribbon cutting event on March 30. Funded through USAID’s Afghanistan Clean Energy Project, the streetlights, a first for the province, bring much needed light to a city not connected to the national power grid…
Upon completion of the project, USAID will have installed 480 solar streetlights in Badakhshan, Bamyan, Hilmand, Kabul, Kandahar, Khost, Nuristan, Paktika, Uruzgan, and Wardak provinces. The program has seen unanimous gratitude expressed for these safe, secure, and stabilizing streetlight systems.
In a ceremony that acknowledged dramatic improvements to the roads in Parwan Province, Governor Abdul Basir Salangi, the Head of Provincial Public Sector Organizations, and sub-governors of Ezatkhel and Saydkhel Districts, together with local citizens formally celebrated USAID’s commitment to implementing routine and emergency maintenance services for 170 kilometers of roads within the province. This project, funded by USAID, includes all roads that are engineered gravel, double bituminous surface treatment, or asphalt roads.
Despite the many challenges of living in remote areas of Afghanistan, diarrhea remains a prominent problem threatening children less than five years of age. This easily preventable condition is most often caused by poor hygiene and sanitation. Through its Afghan Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation (SWSS) project, USAID is implementing a Community Led-Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach in Chenar-e-Gunjishkan of Kalafgan District in Takhar Province, which empowers residents to take responsibility for improving their own communal sanitation practices.
The USAID funded Afghan Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation (SWSS) project has been addressing persistent hygiene and sanitation challenges in Afghanistan. In December 2010, the project started construction of 12 public latrines and 9 clean water reservoirs in Takhti Istalif community of Istalif District in Kabul Province.
Repairing a pipe scheme in the Dayak District of Ghazni Province has helped provide safe drinking water to 8,617 beneficiaries. Inaugurated on November 8, 2010, the network now produces 16 liters per second for the community. After an assessment, the USAID-funded Afghan Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation (SWSS) project started to repair the existing pipe scheme which had been constructed in 1999.
Additionally, SWSS constructed a bore well to complement the repaired water system and to expand improved water access in the village. The newly repaired pipe scheme had not been functional for years, forcing people to collect water from long distances using donkeys and horses.
Kunar is a mountainous province in the east of Afghanistan well endowed with water resources, but lacking infrastructure and management structures to ensure proper access to potable water for the population.
On November 6, 2010, the USAID-funded Afghan Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation (SWSS) project started the construction work of 27 bore wells in the Noorgal District of Kunar Province. The highest need for the population in this area is access to safe drinking water, which has been without hand pumps and has only had open wells in bad condition.
DURNAMA, Afghanistan — In the broiling sun of the relentless Afghan summer, four heavy armored trucks labor up a boulder-studded mountain path. Jolting in their turrets, U.S. Army gunners can see hundreds of miles of jagged skyline and rocky uplands, an immense, barren vista where the United States of America has come to win a war through generosity.
Specifically, the U.S. military is spending $312,000 to build a school on a windswept plateau here. It’s part of an intricate theory of counterinsurgency warfare that involves big money and grinding hard work for a long shot, distant payoff: that kids will grow up in a stable, moderate society not wrenched by extremist violence.
Women and girls suffered tremendously under the Taliban. Shamim Jawad, the wife of Afghanistan’s ambassador to the US, reports that, once the Soviets left the country and the Taliban rose to power, “many of the country’s children — particularly girls — weren’t allowed to go to school.”
“They could not play soccer, fly a kite or even smile,” she said. “Even laughter was threatening to the Taliban.”
American troops, under the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), are now working to empower Afghan women. Soldiers have beenmeeting with Afghan women to learn how they can best help. The first part is understanding where Afghan women are today…
The efforts of American soldiers have already helped some Afghan women to generate their own income. For example, an Afghan Women’s Bazaar in Kabul has given Afghan women the chance to sell handicrafts…
The U.S. Army and Marine Corps have also developed Female Engagement Teams (FETs) that are focused on helping “Afghanistan’s mostly silent female population.”
American service members have also been helping Afghan youth by, for example, setting up youth sports programs. They’ve also formed up a Girls Group where children from surrounding villages come to a base to play and create arts and crafts.
American service members have also been helping Afghan youth by, for example, setting up youth sports programs. They’ve also formed up a Girls Group where children from surrounding villages come to a base to play and create arts and crafts…
Across Afghanistan, these efforts to empower and educate Afghan women (and girls) will take time but they are allowing women to realize their potential in ways that weren’t before possible.
Americans Help Afghan Women (video)
Americans Help Afghan Girls (video)