American Forces Press Service
HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Wrapping up his first trip to Afghanistan since assuming the Pentagon’s No. 2 post, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter today visited a key site that provides irrigation and hydroelectric power to residents here.
“It has always been a dream of mine to come here,” Carter said as he walked through the grounds of the Kajaki Dam.
After the Helmand Valley Authority was formed in 1952, the dam was built with the assistance of the U.S. Agency for International Development and $40 million in bank financing, officials of the International Security Assistance Force’s Regional Command Southwest said. The facility’s turbines produce the hydroelectric power crucial to villages throughout the province and the irrigation of farmlands.
Carter met the dam’s chief engineer and received follow-up information from Col. Steve Waldron, Regional Command Southwest’s civil-military affairs officer, and Thomas Bauhan from USAID.
Two of the units were installed in 1975, but a third turbine was delayed due to conflict in the country, they said. Following failure of both installed turbines in 2003, USAID hired companies to step in and repair the units, and the work finished in 2006.
In August 2008, a contingent of British, Afghan and ISAF troops delivered the third turbine from Kandahar Airfield, but it has yet to be installed, said Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby, who is traveling with Carter.
The deputy secretary was able to witness the results of recent efforts by U.S. Army engineers, Marines, USAID and international donors to restore and improve functionality at the dam and to begin preparations for the third hydroelectric turbine’s installation, Kirby said. The turbine could be operational in 2013, he added, and would be able to provide more than 50 megawatts of power once distribution lines are in place.