By Navy Lt. Neil Myers
Special to American Forces Press Service
July 21, 2008 - The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime recently declared Afghanistan's Konar province to be "nearly poppy-free" in 2006 and 2007. During a July 6 trip to the province, Afghanistan's minister for counter-narcotics, Gen. Khodaidad, announced that Konar has qualified for two monetary awards totaling $750,000 from the Counter-narcotics Trust Fund.
Konar Gov. Sayed Fazlullah Wahidi and his provincial council decided to use $420,000 of that money to upgrade the Konar Teacher Training College with a 60-room dormitory, dining facility and meeting hall. A lack of dormitories requires students of either to commute or to rent local accommodations while attending school.
"This is a great day for Konar and Afghanistan", said Navy Cmdr. Daniel Dwyer, Konar Provincial Reconstruction Team commander. "When you see the government of Afghanistan, on its own, bringing projects to its people that provide for long-term jobs and economic growth, it shows everyone that progress is well on its way."
After Khodaidad's remarks, Wahidi, members of parliament and the delegation moved to the site of the future college facilities for the ceremonial groundbreaking.
"This province is devoted to eliminating poppy in spite of the many problems facing farmers," said Khudaidaad, who thanked the province's elders, who have been campaigning against narcotics.
Wahidi and the Provincial Development Council have not yet decided whether they want to spend the rest of the money on one large provincial project or distribute it for small, district-level projects. The governor said that he will spend some of the money to build irrigation canals and to make educational improvements.
"The people of Konar deserve the credit for the poppy eradication," Wahidi said. "All the tribal elders and people of Konar are committed to putting an end to this [poppy] seed, because the smuggling, trafficking and growing of narcotics is forbidden by Islam."
(Navy Lt. Neil Myers serves with the Konar Provincial Reconstruction Team.)