By Air Force Maj. Kimberly Garbett
Special to American Forces Press Service
Feb. 2, 2009 - More than 100 Afghans and Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team members attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new $180,000 Bakshi Khiel Bridge in the Rokha district of Afghanistan's Panjshir province Jan. 26. On June 27, 2007, a flash flood ravaged parts of the district, destroying the previous bridge and killing 20 people when their bus washed off the Molakhel Road, Panjshir Gov. Haji Bahlol Bahej said as he recounted the history and significance of the new bridge. The new bridge benefits not only the village of Rokha, but also the entire province, the provincial governor added.
"The people of Rokha are happy to have this new bridge complete, ensuring safe travel for cars, buses and even big trucks through Rokha and the Panjshir Valley," said Aqtilla Mohmadi, a village resident and local business owner. "We hope it will also help with our businesses here, since more [people] can come through here safely, even during the spring and summer flood season."
Air Force 1st. Lt. Dustin Koslowsky, Panjshir PRT engineer, said he believes the new bridge means good things for the villagers of Rokha.
"The bridge was designed to provide a safe and reliable crossing in a potentially hazardous area," Koslowsky said.
The PRT's engineering team helped finalize work on the new bridge with local contractors to ensure the bridge's stability.
"Road construction, specifically the Bakshi Khiel Bridge, is critical to Panjshir's – and Afghanistan's – social and economic development," said Army Col. Scott A. Spellmon, Task Force Warrior commander. "This bridge is a critical piece, helping ensure the road being built through the Panjshir Valley continues – and is safe and accessible – all the way through the province."
The completion of the bridge is a true testament to what is possible with good leadership and vision, Spellmon said.
"We will not allow the Taliban, anti-Afghan or anti-coalition forces into Panjshir. The people will not tolerate them in their homes, their valley, or on their new roads," Bahlol said. "The PRT worked hard to get this project worked from start to finish. We all thank them for all of their hard work. This will be a better roadway for the cars and a better walkway for the safety of all the people traveling through Panjshir."
(Air Force Maj. Kimberly Garbett serves with Task Force Warrior.)