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Building Bridges in Afghanistan

By Navy Lt. Neil Myers
Konar Provincial Reconstruction Team

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - The Konar River runs for 150 kilometers and serves as a natural border between eastern Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan. Although the villages along the eastern and western banks of the river are part of Konar, the river reinforces cultural and political alliances between Afghans on the eastern shore and tribesmen across the border in Pakistan. The people on the east have had very little connection to the provincial government.

To resolve this problem, the Konar Provincial Reconstruction Team has embarked on a bridge-building strategy to connect the Afghan government to the five provincial districts on the east of the Konar River. Until recently Afghans in Khas Konar, Sarkani, Naray, Marawara and Dangam Districts looked to Pakistan for cultural affiliation, services and trade.

Currently the two bridges connecting the eastern side of the river with the west are in Nawabad and Asmar. These bridges are the only means of vehicle access to the provincial center. The five new bridges under construction by the PRT are the Guryak, Khas Konar, Marawara, Bar Sholtan and Saw Bridge. The new bridges will accommodate two-way commercial truck traffic and will connect residents from the isolated areas along Pakistan's border with the rest of Konar.

Navy Lt. Matthew Myers, Konar PRT engineer, said that all construction work is being performed by local Afghan companies.

"These projects demonstrate that Afghan engineers are capable of building large scale and technically challenging projects," Myers said.

Myers also reported that residents on both sides of the river enthusiastically support the bridges.

"Due to the popularity of the bridges, there have been no attacks on the projects," Myers said. "Each bridge has an estimated lifetime of 60 years; so, the benefits will last for generations of Afghans."

"The bridges will further legitimize the Afghan government to the people in these areas, showing that the Afghan government is capable of bringing large-scale infrastructure projects to an area neglected by 30 years of war," said Navy Cmdr. Daniel Dwyer, Konar PRT commander.

Construction is on time and on budget. The five bridges will be completed between October 2008 and March 2009.

Sayeed Wahidi, Konar's provincial governor, sees the five bridges as transformational, he said.

"These bridges will give [the Afghan national security forces] access to the most problematic areas of Konar," Sayeed said. "They will disrupt the insurgency along the border districts and will connect the Afghan citizens to markets, health care and the provincial government."

(Source: US Department of Defense - Released)
The Bar Sholtan Truck Bridge is under construction in the Shigal District and, once completed, will provide Afghan national security forces and coalition forces access to the most problematic areas of the Konar province, Afghanistan.
The Saw Truck Bridge is one of five bridges currently under construction in Konar province, Afghanistan. This bridge is being built in the Gaziabad District and has an estimated lifetime of 60 years; it will benefit generations of Afghan people.
The Guryak Truck Bridge is under construction in the Chapadara District, Konar province, Afghanistan. In all, five bridges are being built in the province and, because of the popularity of the projects, no bridges have suffered attacks from anti-Afghan forces.

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