Rebuilding Afghanistan’s Infrastructure, Morale

U.S. – Army Master Sgt. Kevin Daugherty is finishing his year-long tour in Afghanistan. As the enlisted leader for the Jalalabad Provincial Reconstruction Civil Affairs Team [PRT], he oversees the team’s operations to rebuild and improve water management and roads. In a largely agricultural economy, coalition forces work with Afghans to rebuild their infrastructure, which was devastated by years of bombing and neglect.

Daugherty will return to his family in Kentucky soon. He called Tribune correspondent MyLinh Shattan from Nangarhar province recently to talk about his deployment.

Tell me about your job. I work on the Jalalabad Provincial Reconstruction Team. I’m the civil affairs NCOIC [non-commissioned officer in charge] and oversee day-to-day operations. I’m also the project purchasing officer. I work closely with local contractors when we have funds to allocate toward a contract to work with the local community. We work within contract on a specific product, whether that’s a district center or road, on such things as the scope of work to be required, checking quality assurance/quality control. We’ll monitor them until completion.

Talk about a specific project. Nangarhar is an agriculturally-based community. Before the Taliban regime, it was largely crops like olive groves, a number of fruits and vegetables. Over the years through negligence, disrepair and bombing, the irrigation system has taken a lot of damage. Russians took out part of that. Then there’s the drought. There’s a lot of interest in water management, building dams to build up water. Everyone’s interested in a reservoir to store it for the drier summer months. We’re in the process of building a watershed management facility. The local community is very excited about the progress.

What are the other types of projects? Water power and roads, getting water to irrigate croplands, power we try to provide through micro hydros [facilities which channel water to a generator in order to produce electricity]. There’s no large scale power grid anywhere in Afghanistan outside of the larger cities. Even here outside of Jalalabad, that’s limited. It needs to be rebuilt. In the United States we’re so used to having great roads, covering 20 or 30 miles in a short period. Here it could take hours to go that distance. So we start with gravel roads, then improved paved roads. This is a process that’s not just starting. In 2002 PRTs started arriving. This process is going forward from there.

How would you evaluate the reconstruction effort? There are a couple challenging things here. We’re talking about a society that’s been devastated for 30 years. So naturally the way we feel about things in the West, it’s different from things in an uneducated society. They want a better life for their children. They’re so far behind from the opportunities we’ve been blessed with in the U.S. Their level isn’t going to be the same as ours. A level of rapport and appreciation is continuing to build.

How are the women treated there? I was in a village a couple weeks ago meeting with the village elders. They asked about the U.S.: Is it an educated society? They asked about our women, what they were allowed to do. Do women go out by themselves? We [in the U.S.] respect the rule of law, I told them, and wives and daughters go out and do so without the fear of being attacked. They have a great concern for families, daughters and wives.

What’s your take away from this? The biggest thing is I understand why we need to be here – but not just the U.S., the coalition forces. We can’t just leave these people that have been so abused by the Russians, the Taliban, to discard them. Because if we do, the same thing will happen again. We’ll have to continue to strive to redevelop the rule of law and give these people the opportunity to improve and develop without the grip of terror.

The Tribune arranges the Voices From The Front interviews with service members through U.S. Central Command. Tribune correspondent MyLinh Shattan can be reached at mylinh@mylinhshattan.com

Apr 29, 2007

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About the Author

Mylinh Shattan is a writer who has lived on three continents, served in the Army, worked in corporate America, and taught in college. She loves adventures, in the world and in the mind. Literature is relevant and learning is a lifelong pursuit, so you might as well have a bit of fun along the way.

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