By Army Sgt. Sean C. Finch
Special to American Forces Press Service
June 24, 2009 - Gov. Habbiba Sarobi of Afghanistan's Bamyan province hosted the grand opening for the country's first national park June 18. Guests and dignitaries from the U.S. embassy gathered with government officials from throughout Afghanistan to cut the ribbon symbolizing the opening of the national park and reserve at the Band-e-Amir Lakes natural dam.
"This inauguration symbolizes a turning point in our history and future," Sarobi said. "We should recognize this moment as a realization of not only the natural beauty, but of the significance of its promise for the future of our area."
Among those in attendance were U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, who was making his first trip to Bamyan, and Army Brig. Gen. William Mayville, deputy commanding general of support for Combined Joint Task Force 82, who noted the area's natural beauty and tranquillity.
"This place is so serene, and truly a marvel to look at," Mayville said. The lakes form a unique attraction in the mountainous Bamyan region. Formed by glacier water nearly 400 feet in depth, they give the appearance of being cut from the stone that forms the mountains around them.
After a presentation from the officials at the ceremony, guests of the inauguration were treated to rides on paddle boats and a meal.
"This has been a day that I will long remember, as a look toward the future of our country," said Second Vice President of Afghanistan Kareem Khalili. "The air, the pure water and the true peace of this place is something that everyone should be able to enjoy."
Sarobi spoke optimistically about the future of the national park and how new roads built by the New Zealand-led provincial reconstruction team and Task Force Warrior will provide access to the park and its many resources.
"Everyone should be able to experience this, and I hope that the roads are completed soon so that we can share this wonderful sight with all the citizens of Afghanistan," Sarobi said.
(Army Sgt. Sean C. Finch serves in the Task Force Warrior public affairs office.)