War on Terrorism

Saturday, December 19, 2009

New Afghan Road Benefits Families, Commerce

By Air Force Capt. Tony Wickman
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 18, 2009 - Getting through downtown Asadabad, Afghanistan, has become easier for hundreds of Afghan families, thanks to two and a half miles of new roads that were completed Dec. 13. Provincial reconstruction team engineers completed their final quality-assurance check just before a dedication ceremony with Kunar Gov. Fazlullah Wahidi and village elders on a clear, warm day.

The roads, worth $935,000, will benefit hundreds of families and businesses in the city and is a welcome improvement, several residents and shopkeepers said.

Sherzada, a general store owner who has been in business for three years, said the new roads make a difference in the lives of the people working and living in Dam Kalay village and Asadabad.

"Before, the road was all muddy and wasn't good for my business," he said. The people of this village and [I] were getting our clothes dirty while walking here. Whenever we were doing shopping downtown, it would take more time for us to come here. But the new road now makes us feel safer and cleaner. It also makes the trip shorter, and it's a benefit for everyone in the village."

Navy Lt. Derek Elling, provincial reconstruction team engineer, said the road was a good project, with only minor issues. Unlike many other road projects, this wasn't a continuous road, but rather is smaller segments of roads linking different parts of the city.

"The overall quality of the road is good," said Elling, a native of Norwood Young America, Minn. "There was a 700-meter section of road that wasn't complete when we got here [in July] that we had to decide whether it was going to be [paved with double-bituminous surface treatment] or concrete, because it is in a washout area." The surface treatment, he said, was the reason for the final quality-assurance check before the dedication ceremony.

"There were minor things that need to be addressed — a small section of the road broke off, and a culvert needs to be repaired — but overall, it is good road."

Elling said a positive sight while conducting the quality assessment patrol was seeing local people who had been hired by a nongovernmental group cleaning the new streets.

"The [nongovernmental organization] is doing some good work and are on the frontline of things," he said. "They pay people directly to go out and do jobs like clean the street, which eliminates the threat of corruption and graft."

In his remarks to more than 50 provincial leaders and tribal elders at the dedication site, Army Lt. Col. Joseph Cantlin, the provincial reconstruction team's chief of military-civilian operations, praised the local construction and engineering company for its efforts.

"This morning, [we] walked up and down the road to see that the contractor did a good job and built a good road for the city of Asadabad," said Cantlin, of Fort Belvoir, Va.

Cantlin expressed the hope that the road will improve governance and development in the area.

"As you know, Asadabad is the capital and center of governance and economic development for the entire province," he said. "Our hope is that this new road will help to continue economic development and bring new jobs to the people of Asadabad."

(Air Force Capt. Tony Wickman serves in the provincial reconstruction team public affairs office in Afghanistan's Kunar province.)

No comments: