Afghanistan Shows Progress on Economic, Governance Fronts
International Security Assistance Force
KABUL, Afghanistan, Oct. 12, 2010 Several achievements in September demonstrate Afghanistan’s progress in economic and governance development, according to a NATO International Security Force news release.
ISAF officials issued the following as examples of progress from each region that they said reflects the long-term commitment of the Afghan government and its international partners to create security, stability and opportunity for all Afghans. They also demonstrate the continuing success of partnered Afghan-coalition security operations to protect the people from the insurgency, they said.
In the Southwest:
-- About 1,000 Afghan farmers and village elders declared an end to drug production in northern Marjah during an anti-drug summit in early September. The farmers agreed to stop growing illicit plants like opium.
-- Just five months ago Marjah did not have a formally-trained police force. Today Marjah has a police station and about 300 fully trained police officers to patrol the area. The facility also serves as a police recruiting station to hire local residents. The steady increase in security and local police hires contributes to district government stability, and is helping economic development.
-- Marjah’s local government helped open four new schools in time for the new school year. Among the four, Marjah High School opened its doors for the first time in more than six years, with about 150 boys and girls registering on the first day.
-- A marketplace that was closed for more than five years reopened in Marjah on Sept. 11. In the Musa Qal’ah District of Helmand province the bazaar has grown from about 200 shops in March to more than 500 today, providing shop owners throughout the Helmand River Valley venues to sell goods and stimulate local economic development.
In the South:
-- Afghan officials and international partners are working to improve the supply of electricity to Kandahar City. The first of two 10-megawatt power plants is scheduled to be operational by December, and is expected to provide power to up to 15,000 homes. Provincial officials intend to use the power to expand essential services and create jobs. The Kandahar provincial governor is planning a business expo later this year to attract commercial ventures.
In the North:
-- In the commercial hub of Mazar-E Sharif, Afghan officials and international partners are engaged in several major infrastructure projects such as road construction, the North-East Power-System, Hospital Mazar-e-Sharif, Balkh University complex, and water utility improvement program.
-- The Ministry of Transportation and Aviation plans to rehabilitate 30 airports throughout the country. This project includes the construction of two new airports in Badakhshan and Faryab provinces. The new projects are intended to boost traffic and bolster the economy in the provinces.
-- A $170 million project to construct a 75-kilometer railroad line between Hairatan and Mazar-e-Sharif near the Uzbekistan border is complete. Workers are scheduled to finish installing an additional 25 kilometers of rail line for side and switching yards in November. The project, under the supervision of the Ministry of Public Works, will have a significant economic impact as almost half of Afghanistan’s imports pass through Hairatan.
-- The Ministry of Mines recently opened four new petroleum wells in the Angot area of Sar-E Pul province. The wells are expected to yield about 800 barrels of crude oil daily.
In the East:
-- Work is nearly complete on a new 100-bed hospital in Khost City that will double patient capacity over the existing facility, improve the quality of and access to health care for the province’s 1 million residents, and create jobs in the province. The hospital will include an emergency room, male, female and children’s wards, midwife and maternity wards, x-ray and oncology departments. The Afghan Ministry of Health will staff the hospital. Officials plan to open the facility later this fall.
-- Afghan women in Jalalabad are rehabilitating a nursing hostel and performing traditionally male tasks like painting, plastering and electrical work. The program is geared toward training and employing war widows and women with disabled husbands.
-- Also in Jalalabad, work is beginning on a new 1,200-student Technical and Professional Learning Institute. The Education Ministry is funding the project, which will provide students with technical and vocational training, an important foundation for economic growth in the region.
-- In Paktika province, about 60 students are enrolled in the Sharana Vocational and Agriculture Center’s two-month class to learn chicken and egg production. Sixty farmers also are enrolled in a training program in Wardak to learn how to increase fruit orchard yields. These Afghan-led programs are designed to improve agriculture practices and productivity in the provinces.
In the West:
-- Thirty-five Afghan farmers gathered Sept. 14 at the Herat Seed Center to receive seven tons of saffron bulbs and fertilizer donated by the Italian Provincial Reconstruction Team. Each farmer received 440 pounds of saffron bulbs, which could cover about 3,000 square meters. Saffron is drought resistant and a high-dollar value crop, making it a good alternative to poppy cultivation. Sixty tons of saffron bulbs are planned for distribution across Afghanistan.
-- In Herat, work is almost complete on a $650,000 women’s social center. The facility, planned in coordination with Herat’s Department of Women’s Affairs, will offer a more secure women’s training facility and meeting place.
-- Farah province Gov. Rahool Amin visited Pur Chaman, the province’s most-remote district, to meet with local and district officials. He addressed several hundred residents and unveiled six proposed development projects, including a micro-hydro plant to develop electrification, a bee-keeping facility to expand the district’s honey production, solar street lights, a boy’s school, expansion of a health clinic, and a security wall around a girl’s school.
In the Capital region:
-- Afghan provincial and district leaders formally opened a bridge in Farza district Sept. 25. The $170,000 project began in February at the request of Shah Nasır village residents. A small river divides the village, and during spring thaws the higher water level had cut off village residents from vital services.
Afghan National Security Forces Development:
-- Twenty-nine Afghan women graduated Sept. 23 from the Afghan army’s officer candidate school at the Kabul Military Training Center. Today there are nearly 300 women in the Afghan army. These newly commissioned second lieutenants comprised the first group of women to graduate from the officer training program. During the 20-week officer’s course, the candidates learned basic military skills and were trained to become finance or logistics officers. Recruiting is underway for the next class to begin in November.
-- An Afghan army company of about 100 soldiers departed Afghanistan Sept. 17 for Turkey to participate in Turkey’s commando basic training course. The month-long training program is through a joint partnership between Afghan and Turkish defense forces. The course provides Afghan security forces with advanced training in special operations, urban warfare tactics, marksmanship and other combat tactics, increasing soldiers’ security operations skills.
-- The third group of Afghan army military police graduated Sept. 23 from the Detention Operations Training Center in Parwan. The 189 soldiers completed two weeks of language and eight weeks of detention operations training prior to assuming guard operations at the Parwan detention facility. More than 700 Afghan military police are currently training to augment the guard force. More than 100 Afghan guards are fully trained and standing guard duty with their American counterparts.