By Army 1st Lt. Lory Stevens
Special to American Forces Press Service
July 28, 2009 - Accompanied by members of Task Force Warrior and Task Force Gladius, a U.S. government business and stability operations team visited the Jabal Saraj Cement Plant in Afghanistan's Parwan province July 25 as part of a fact-finding mission. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Paul Brinkley, director of a business and stability task force, and his team of development experts have worked in Iraq for the past three years building the private business sector, and now are travelling across Afghanistan to determine if the United States can assist Afghans with more employment opportunities.
Islamuddin Ahmadi, the plant's general manager, met with the group and gave a brief tour of the cement plant that employs about 200 workers. The Afghan-Soviet war in the 1980s resulted in damage to the plant's structure, said Ahmadi, who has worked at the plant for the last 30 years.
"The Taliban later forced plant workers at gunpoint to turn on machines in the absence of adequate power, causing other structural problems and damage to equipment," he added.
Due to limited electricity, the plant operates for only one hour per day, but it produces cement and has limited sales.
"We did not expect to see this in Afghanistan," the development experts said, referring to the relatively good working order of the plant and the level of expertise in management.
After the fact-finding mission, Brinkley will report the team's findings to U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl W. Eikenberry and to Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, who requested the mission in an effort to foster economic growth in Afghanistan.
(Army 1st Lt. Lory Stevens serves in the Task Force Warrior public affairs office.)