By Army Staff Sgt. David Hopkins
Special to American Forces Press Service
Feb. 18, 2009 - Even a short road goes a long way in Afghanistan. The opening of a seven-mile road in eastern Afghanistan's Konar province is affording critical transportation for residents and allowing coalition forces to transfer some security operations to the Afghanistan government.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force announced the opening of the $3.9 million road in Deywagal Valley and the closing of its Combat Outpost Seray, which provided security to the construction crew, in Feb. 5 ceremonies in the province.
The new road –- more than two years in the making -- is the latest project for the Konar Provincial Reconstruction Team and the 1st Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team. The 3rd BCT's 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion, oversaw completion of the road and is handing over security of the area to the Afghan government; the team's 4th Cavalry Regiment continues to provide security in other parts of Konar province.
"This was a huge success," said Army Maj. Kendall Clarke, executive officer for the 26th Infantry Regiment's 1st Battalion. "We can hand over the road to the Afghan government and they will have to continue with security in that area, allowing us to focus on other areas."
The construction company that built the road will take over the outpost as it continues work to connect the road to the Korengal Valley, Clarke said. "Then, what was once a six-hour drive will only take 30 minutes," he added.
Navy Cmdr. Murray Tynch, Konar PRT commander, said the road will allow residents to get basic medical care, will decrease the risk of roadside bombs and will improve trade in and out of the rural areas.
The idea of improving the road began when members of the 10th Mountain Division's 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion, were in the area in 2006 and spoke with elders about what they wanted and needed. The road and the outpost were the result.
"We saw that it was an isolated valley and seemed to be very poor," Army Command Sgt. Maj. James Carabello of the 32nd Infantry Regiment's 1st Battalion, said. "The elders said they wanted two things: a new road and security by coalition forces during the construction. That valley has a great deal of potential and we came through on our promise."
The opening of the road is important because it will allow the Afghan people the ability to take a larger role in their future and allow them better access to markets and commerce, the sergeant major added.
"Through the road, we are providing the people access to the government," Carabello said. "This is a great success for the people of Afghanistan. It will also allow them to get to markets easier."
(Army Staff Sgt. David Hopkins serves in the U.S. Forces Afghanistan's public affairs office.)