By Air Force Capt. Tony Wickman
Special to American Forces Press Service
Oct. 26, 2009 - The road to economic success here is paved and has bridges linking both sides of the Kunar River. The provincial government, with the help of the Kunar Provincial Reconstruction Team, is making that success a reality with the 11.25-mile Asmar to Nishigam road and Marawara bridge span. Dan Dunleavy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representative to the provincial reconstruction team, said the road project is well under way and will spur economic development and increased security in the province.
"I'm very pleased with what I saw. ... They are doing a good job getting the project on track and constructing the road," Dunleavy said. "The road is in a tough place that is frequently attacked by [insurgents]. Many trucks and transportation vehicles line the riverbed, because they were destroyed while traversing this road. Once completed, the road will improve safety in the area by giving security forces quicker access to the area to respond to threats."
In the long term, Dunleavy said, the road will link the villages along the road to the provincial capital and beyond, which will in turn stimulate economic development.
The $5.1 million project was assessed at 30 percent complete. Dunleavy said the project got a little behind because insurgents used corn fields along the road to attack the workers and disrupt traffic.
"Now that the corn is harvested, the contractor is putting his workers back on the job and protecting them and his equipment," Dunleavy said. "Overall, there are more than 100 workers employed on this project, and we saw eight different road crews working during the assessment."
The provincial reconstruction team evaluated the progress of the Marawara truck bridge project and the approach roads. The new bridge, a little more than three miles north of Asadabad, will link the two sides of the Kunar River when it's completed in November.
Though a few construction concerns need to be addressed with the contractor about the approach road, Dunleavy said, the bridge is in great shape and will be a vital thoroughfare linking the province together. Dawood, the lead construction engineer on the project, echoed that sentiment.
"The bridge is important to the people here," said Dawood, who like many Afghans, goes by only one name. "We have to cross the river very far away, but now we are happy to get this work done and cross the river here."
Pointing at the old bridge currently used to ford the river upstream, Dawood pointed out the differences between that bridge and the bridge under construction.
"This is a concrete bridge and very good and stable. That bridge over there is not stable, because it shakes and is very scary," he said. "This is a very good improvement."
The construction project is nearly complete, and was an economic engine for the province because it employed about 300 people from the local area at various times during the year-long, $1 million project. Dawood said once his company is done with the bridge, his workers will begin construction on a police station near the bridge.
"After this job, we will go to work on the construction project on the other side of the bridge. We will hire more local people, because it's honorable to hire local people," Dawood said. "We have to do the survey first, think about how many people we will need and then hire 200 or 300 workers, because it will take two years to build."
(Air Force Capt. Tony Wickman serves in the Kunar Provincial Reconstruction Team public affairs office.)