By Senior Airman James Bolinger, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service
Dec. 10, 2007 - Commanders of two coalition task forces met with Afghan government officials yesterday to discuss rebuilding infrastructure and developing health care in the country's Parwan province. Army Col. Jonathon Ives, Task Force Cincinnatus commander, and Army Col. Bart Iddins Task Force Med commander, first met with the sub-governor of Jabal Saraj about the local bazaar. Earlier this year, a flood wiped out a bridge and several shops at the Jabal Saraj Bazaar. The river basin is now nearly twice as wide as it was in the spring. Bagram Provincial Reconstruction Team engineers have devised a plan to shore up the banks of the river and save the remaining shops in the bazaar.
"Our discussion with (the sub-governor) was about getting labor to fill the gabion baskets with rocks," Ives said. "Essentially it is a manual-labor process. If he could do that, then they have some ownership over the project."
Ives wants to reinforce the river banks soon, while the water is low. "We just want to shore up that wall before the spring floods," he said.
After meeting with the sub-governor, Ives and Iddins stopped by Afghanistan's oldest hydro-electric plant, which was built around 1920. The generators for the plant were brought on wooden ships from Britain to India. They were then put on the backs of elephants and carried into Afghanistan. The plant once generated four megawatts, but now produces only half a megawatt, or 500 kilowatts. Ives said the plant's workers have kept it running decades longer than the equipment was designed to last. The colonel's plan is to replace the generators inside the plant.
"If we could use everything that they have here, the canal systems, the water systems and just replace the generators, then we could get six to seven megawatts out of this power plant," Ives said. "It is probably about a $12 million project and will probably take two to three years."
If the hydro plant is renovated, it would power not only Jabal Saraj, but also a local cement factory and industrial park.
The colonels also toured the Charikar Hospital, where Task Force Med is building the structure and capacity of the Afghan health care system. "The medical staff is very dedicated; they're hard-working and, in many areas, are well trained, but in other areas they could use some bolstering of their training," Ives said. "That is one of our missions; we want to help train them."
While the hospital currently treats trauma patients and has a very active surgery program, the facility could use some improvements. "Some of their equipment is adequate, and some of it is obsolete," Iddins said. "What we are attempting to do is get better equipment here and, more importantly, train them how to use and maintain it."
Iddins said he believes it will take more than two years to bring in modern equipment and train the staff on its use. The visits to the sub-governor's compound, power plant and hospital represent a future for Afghanistan. "We are building the infrastructure that allows the government to reach people and provide basic needs," Ives said.
(Air Force Senior Airman James Bolinger is assigned to Combined Joint Task Force 82 Public Affairs.)