Afghan Engineer District Chief Updates Projects
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 11, 2005 U.S. military engineers in Afghanistan continue to manage myriad projects designed to bring prosperity and security to that war-torn nation, a senior military officer said today.
Col. John B. O'Dowd, chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Afghanistan District, told reporters at a press conference in Kabul about the $28 million contract awarded March 21 to an Italian firm to construct a major bridge over the Pyandzh River at Sher Khan along the Afghan-Tajikistani border.
The contractor, Rizzani de Eccher S.p.A of Udine, Italy, and U.S. military engineers have conducted meetings, O'Dowd said, noting that work on the bridge's design "is proceeding."
The colonel said the completed bridge "will contribute to the economic development and integration" of Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The new bridge will also "serve as a vital link connecting the Central Asian region with outside markets," O'Dowd noted, and "contribute to the long-term peace and security" across the region.
The Pyandzh River bridge project, O'Dowd noted, is an example of the "continued commitment of coalition forces" and the Army Corps of Engineers to the Afghan people.
The bridge will provide a two-lane vehicle crossing with a pedestrian walkway connecting the two countries, according to a Corps release. It's expected to carry more than 1,000 vehicles per day and will replace a barge system that can ferry only 50 to 60 cars per day over the river. The ferry is also not operational several months of the year due to unsafe water conditions.
U.S. engineers in Afghanistan, the colonel added, also continue, "to provide the necessary facilities to bolster the Afghan security sector in order to provide a safe and secure environment free from terrorism."
He used the example of the 20,000 Afghan soldiers trained at facilities built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Those Afghan soldiers, the colonel pointed out, have for the past year worked in tandem with coalition troops during operations against terrorist elements.
O'Dowd also reported that Afghanistan's new National Military Academy is in the final stages of construction, and is already training the facilities first crop of cadets.
Other ongoing Corps of Engineers' projects in Afghanistan, he noted, include renovations of Afghan military hospitals, army barracks, airfields, communications centers, police facilities and more. The Corps is also building new facilities for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, he added, as well as laying new runways at Kandahar and Bagram air bases.
The Afghanistan district office is also assisting several public works projects, he noted, such as renovations at the Rabia Balkhi Women's Hospital to install heating, electrical, water and sewage systems. More work is being done at the Chele Daktharan Housing Project, he said, that will provide shelter for thousands of displaced Afghans in Kabul.
O'Dowd said U.S. engineers in Afghanistan are also working with the U.S. Agency for International Development on infrastructure projects such as roads, schools, clinics, power, and water resources.
In fiscal 2004 the U.S. engineers awarded almost $600 million in contracts for work in Afghanistan, he noted, with much of that work directed to companies that train and employ Afghans. And this fiscal year "we have requested nearly $800 million" for Afghan projects, he said.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-sponsored projects in Afghanistan "provide the opportunity for Afghans to be trained in skilled trades and obtain quality employment," O'Dowd pointed out.
And those skills, he noted, will enable Afghans "to rebuild their own nation."
(Compiled from Combined Forces Command Afghanistan press releases.)