LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army Capt. Jason Merchant, the company commander of Company A, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, Task Force Ironman from Dysart, Iowa, hands out cards Dec. (click for more)
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Spc. Lauren Hyman of Texarkana, Texas, armored vehicle driver for the 64th Military Police Company based at Combat Oupost Fortress, says hello to an (click for more)
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Taylor Gingrich, an infantry officer from Cedar Falls, Iowa, with Task Force Ironman, draws a smile from an Afghan boy as Gingrich (click for more)
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Spc. Brian Stowe, a human resources specialist from Elkmont, Ala., with Task Force Knighthawk, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, sings a ballad he wrote and (click for more)
PAKTYA, Afghanistan – Servicemembers defend the wall after an improvised explosive device detonates on Forward Operating Base Lightning Dec. 5. (click for more)
KAPISA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan and French military chiefs conduct a briefing before deployment during a security operation. Afghan National Security Forces and French Task Force Richelieu conducted Operation Montevideo (click for more)
PANJSHIR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Phil Compton, Doty, Wash., Panjshir PRT engineer, and PRT local Afghan engineer Abid Wardak check the structural integrity of the retaining (click for more)
GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan – An Afghan family looks at their new family member after she was delivered by the Polish Army medical team at Forward Operating Base Warrior Jan. 3. (click for more)
KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- Soldiers from 2nd Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, maneuver through Sabari District during patrols to disrupt insurgent activity in the (click for more)
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Sgt. Shawn Fouste, Decatur, Ill., noncommissioned officer in charge of the Freedom Restoration Center with the 455th Expeditionary Wing, Task Force Med, plays with (click for more)
The road connecting Sharan and Mata Khan Districts in Paktika Province to Zurmat District in Paktya Province has been under construction since 2008.
However, in the past two weeks, Paktika Provincial Reconstruction Team engineers observed a distinct improvement in local business.
U.S. Navy Lt. j.g. Jason Buswell, Paktika PRT project manager from Groton, Conn., said there is more activity and merchandise present in the Mata Khan District Center because of the new road.
“We had noticed there was one little shop in particular, that a few weeks ago an Afghan National Army soldier had stopped in to get some snacks,” he said. “But we couldn’t even tell it was a shop.”
A few weeks later, when Buswell and other team members visited the road to do a quality assurance mission, he noticed the same building with customers and merchandise outside, distinguishing the structure as a shop.
“This road helps us get our supplies on time,” said Sayed Anwar, a shop owner in Mata Khan. “It’s hard for us. Our economy is very poor in these villages, but it’s getting much better.”
The walls and shelves inside Anwar’s shop are covered with snacks and supplies, while his cousin, Mohammed Anwar, sews scarves for females.
According to Buswell, the road is designed to be 37 kilometers long. Right now, engineers have completed 26 kilometers in rough-grade form and more than 10 kilometers of smooth gravel road. In the spring, the contractor will install asphalt over the prepped gravel road.
For now, the newly-laid gravel road leads up to the cobblestone street that runs through the Mata Khan District Center, leading to a local bazaar consisting of a clinic, pharmacy and shops.
“If we have the asphalt road, then we can work on the markets and shops,” said Sayed Anwar. “We can supply more things and business can grow.”
The road must go through several stages of construction before the contractor will begin laying two layers of asphalt to complete the Mata Khan portion of the road.
“Before the road, the people were not very happy here,” said Altaf, the project quality control manager from Pakistan. “The people are happy now, and they’re saying the road will help them.”
In addition to completing the road surface, engineers are adding culverts, causeways and retaining walls that are critical to project completion.
“Right now we’re on culvert 25,” Buswell said. “We’ve built other structures such as three causeways or low-water crossings and concrete gutters. We’ve also built three large retaining walls to prepare the road bed for asphalt in the spring.”
He explained these concrete and stone masonry structures will produce a lasting, strong road bed that diverts water which would otherwise cause soil erosion and eventual failure of the road.
Buswell said completion of the road project is determined by several factors, one of which is security.
“Security issues are the biggest concern,” he said. “But now that we have (Afghan National Army) out there, we should see better progress.”
The ANA took over security of the road in December after the government began cracking down on private security companies operating in Afghanistan. Members of Paktika PRT who conversed with villagers in Mata Khan said the consensus is security is going very well in the district.
“Here in Sharana, in a short period of time, we’ve seen the bazaar really grow because of the roads and we think this will have the same impact on Mata Khan and into Zurmat,” Buswell said. “This road will also help extend the reach of governance throughout the province and beyond.”
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