By Army 1st Lt. Lory Stevens
Special to American Forces Press Service
Afghanistan, April 8, 2009 - More than 5,000 residents of Afghanistan's Panjshir province gathered March 30 to celebrate the groundbreaking for a road some say will make the area the best in the country for travel. The $28 million project, funded by the provincial reconstruction team, will cover more than 43 miles of rough terrain through the Panjshir Valley up to Badakshan province. The road will be nearly five inches thick and almost 30 feet wide, and will be able to support heavy equipment carriers and traffic.
"I think you will see that over the next several years, Panjshir will become the best place in Afghanistan to visit because of this road," Air Force Lt. Col. Mark E. Stratton, Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team commander, said at the ceremony in the Safied Shahir village of the province's Khenj district. Stratton said he believes road development will lead to private investment in the area.
Panjshir Gov. Haji Bahlol praised the PRT for the amount of work done, as well as the resulting improvements the road will make to the quality of life for people living in the area.
"In the future, the road is going to enable the private investor to come here because we have such great security. Investment will create more jobs, and residents now going to Kabul to work will be able to stay in their valley and still have a job," Bahlol said.
"When I first came here, I promised you I would build a road through here, and I have done it," the governor said.
Five community leaders spoke of the good the road will bring to Khenj District.
"Giving of your land will be good for future commerce," said Ahulaw Jillani, a local leader who also thanked the contractors for the good job they are doing for the people of Khenj.
(Army 1st Lt. Lory Stevens serves in the Task Force Warrior public affairs office.)