By Air Force Capt. Tony Wickman
Special to American Forces Press Service
Sept. 23, 2009 - New roads and bridges in Afghanistan's Konar province are going a long way to help both residents and troops in the northeast border area, U.S. military and civilian engineers say. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the international forces' provincial reconstruction team for Konar province held a joint flyover Sept. 20 of current road and bridge projects in the province and made an assessment.
"Overall, we all were very happy with the progress on the various ongoing road and bridge projects, and we're hoping they're finished before winter starts," said Navy Lt. Derek Elling, team engineer officer and Minnesota native. "These roads and bridges are connecting the people here to their local, provincial and national government."
The roads and bridges are improving development by promoting commerce and transportation, said Daniel Dunleavy, USACE liaison to the Konar team and a Winchester, Va., native.
"If you give people mobility, you bring in prosperity," Dunleavy said, citing a recently completed bridge in the Shigal Valley as an example. "They're now building a bazaar on the other side of the bridge where before there was nothing. Where ever we put a road, commerce is right behind."
Just two and half years ago, 30 to 40 shops and one car dealership were in downtown Asadabad, Dunleavy said. Then, the U.S. Agency for International Development completed the road connecting Jalalabad to Asmar, and now there are more than 200 shops and four car dealerships.
Road and bridge projects do more than help people travel and improve the economy, Dunleavy said. They also improve security, making it harder for insurgents to plant bombs.
"Getting asphalt roads will help eliminate the [improvised explosive device] threat," he said. "It's a hell of a lot harder digging up an asphalt road than it is a dirt road.
"Getting roads to the point where they are putting down their base for asphalt is huge. It makes it safer and increases the maneuverability of security forces in and around the province because they can get places a lot quicker."
The flyover gave the engineers a chance to see many projects including a road from Sarkani to Nawa Pass, the road from Asmar to Nishigam, as well as the Pashad, Khas Kunar and Saw bridges.
"We got to see about a dozen projects in six hours, where [from the ground] we don't get to see that much," Dunleavy said. "It also gave us a chance to get aerial photos that we can use to go back and show [headquarters] when we talk about these projects."
Regardless of where they are doing projects, the local people end up happy with the team's efforts, Elling said.
"We're received very well because they know where we are building projects, there are jobs and opportunities coming into their area," he said. "Some are reluctant, but once they see the benefits they are very appreciative."
(Air Force Capt. Tony Wickman serves with Konar Provincial Reconstruction Team public affairs.)