American Forces Press Service
March 19, 2009 - U.S. forces are paving the way for a better quality of life in Afghanistan, with projects ranging from a nearly 40-mile road slated to boost economy and governance to mentorship aimed at helping Afghan forces assume a greater role in their nation's security. A $28 million road project is slated to improve the quality of life for about 300,000 Afghan residents by linking major commerce and district government centers. The nearly 40-mile road will connect Panjshir to Badakhshan and other neighboring provinces.
As part of the planning process, Afghan and U.S. leaders performed an aerial assessment March 14 of a planned "spine" road in Panjshir leading north to Badakshan.
Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Schloesser, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 101 and Regional Command East; Alhaj G. Bahlol, governor of Panjshir; and Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team leaders performed the assessment aboard a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.
The leaders surveyed the last section of the future road, Segment 7. The PRT already has planned and funded six of the seven road segments.
"Rib roads" also will be designed and paved, connecting remote villages in the side valleys to the new main road.
"The success we're seeing in Panjshir is because of the partnership between Governor Bahlol, the provincial government and the PRT," Schloesser said. "With security less of a threat in this province, compared to most of eastern Afghanistan, we're able to help the Afghan government make tangible improvements to the quality of life here at a much faster rate.
"Panjshir is going to serve as a model for the rest of the eastern provinces to follow once they become more stable," the general continued, "and we're looking forward to seeing the road's positive effects."
Although the United States is funding the road, Panjshir's government leaders are guiding the key decisions, such as selecting contractors, obtaining deeds for lands the road must pass through, and with the PRT's assistance, conducting quality assurance inspections of the contractors' work.
U.S. forces also are paving the way for better security in Afghanistan. Soldiers from 25th Infantry Division's Troop A, 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, provided security and mentorship for the Afghan National Army during a key-leader engagement March 15 in eastern Afghanistan's Paktia province.
"As we conduct security in conjunction with the [Afghan National Army], we are also mentoring them," Army 2nd Lt. Timothy Roy, Troop A platoon leader, said. "We are working with them to build their capacity so they are able to take over the security operations as well."
With the assistance of Troop A, Afghan soldiers handed out radios to local residents to help them maintain knowledge of current events in their area. A local radio broadcaster accompanied the soldiers, conducting interviews with residents that were later broadcast on the new radios.
"The operation was definitely a success today," Roy said.
(Compiled from Combined Joint Task Force 101 news releases. Air Force Capt. Stacie N. Shafran of the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team public affairs office and Army Pfc. Andrya Hill of the 25th Infantry Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team public affairs office contributed to this article.)