Three Afghan Provinces ‘Prime for Transition,’ Colonel Says

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2010 — Three provinces in east­ern Afghanistan are “prime for tran­si­tion” in the near future for self-gov­er­nance, a task force com­man­der in the region said today.

“The Afghan gov­ern­ment has made tremen­dous progress in [its] abil­i­ty to both pro­tect and gov­ern the Afghan peo­ple,” said Army Col. William Roy, com­man­der of Task Force Wolver­ine and the Ver­mont Nation­al Guard’s 86th Infantry Brigade Com­bat Team, speak­ing from Afghanistan with Pen­ta­gon reporters by video tele­con­fer­ence.

Roy and his sol­diers are devel­op­ing secu­ri­ty forces and dis­trict gov­ern­ments in Afghanistan’s Par­wan, Pan­jshir and Bamyan provinces. A recent com­bined oper­a­tion in west­ern Par­wan, he said, result­ed in five Tal­iban oper­a­tives being detained when they were caught try­ing to plant bombs along a major road net­work.

“We see this as a tremen­dous exam­ple of the progress they’re mak­ing,” he said.

The Afghan Nation­al Police are “right on the heels” of the Afghan army in gain­ing respect from the Afghan peo­ple, Roy said. Afghan police can­di­dates in the region are well-edu­cat­ed, he added, with a 90 per­cent lit­er­a­cy rate in Bamyan.

“When you have a [police] train­ing class with seats for 30 indi­vid­u­als and you have 50 show up, the desire to learn and to grow in their capa­bil­i­ty is tremen­dous,” Roy said.

Now on his fourth deploy­ment to Afghanistan, Roy said he has seen sig­nif­i­cant change in Afghanistan’s army since he arrived in 2002 for his first tour of duty there.

“So com­ing back here in 2010, you see the Afghan Nation­al Army and it has grown by leaps and bounds,” he said, not­ing the pro­fes­sion­al­ism of today’s offi­cer corps and the build­ing of a “very strong” corps of non­com­mis­sioned offi­cers.

Roy said he sees Afghan sol­diers dur­ing his cur­rent tour whom he first met in the war’s ear­ly years. “When you work along­side them in this type of a mis­sion, you become very close friends,” he said. Many have gone from being com­pa­ny com­man­ders to bat­tal­ion com­man­ders, from bat­tal­ion com­man­ders to brigade com­man­ders, from bat­tal­ion com­mand sergeants major to brigade com­mand sergeants major since he’s known them, he said.

“I had a great con­ver­sa­tion with one of the for­mer com­pa­ny com­man­ders in Eng­lish,” he said. “He went through the train­ing cen­ter to study Eng­lish, and we had a tremen­dous con­ver­sa­tion when I came back.”

Progress in secu­ri­ty has allowed for devel­op­ment in the three provinces for recon­struc­tion, embed­ded train­ing and agribusi­ness devel­op­ment, the colonel said, and eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment in east­ern Afghanistan is becom­ing evi­dent.

“In Pan­jshir, they just opened up a mar­ble mine fac­to­ry that is real­ly pro­vid­ing a lot of rev­enue as well as jobs for the locals,” Roy said. Tourism signs are begin­ning to pop up in Bamyan, he added. The future of Afghanistan lies in small busi­ness, Roy said.

“When I was here in 2002, when you went from Kab­ul to Bagram, there was vir­tu­al­ly noth­ing on the road,” he told reporters. “Now, in about an hour-long dri­ve, you get the devel­op­ment all the way along — busi­ness­es grow­ing up, gas sta­tions on the side of the road.”

Afghanistan’s abil­i­ty to self-gov­ern is mov­ing slow­ly, but steadi­ly, Roy said, not­ing that Bamyan has Afghanistan’s only female gov­er­nor, rep­re­sent­ing the Haz­ara pop­u­la­tion.

Panjshir’s min­istry of agri­cul­ture put togeth­er a bud­get, sent it to the cen­tral gov­ern­ment and received the bud­get back to put in place in the province, he added.

The U.S. mil­i­tary offers Afghans the oppor­tu­ni­ty to work through such pro­grams as the Com­man­ders Emer­gency Response Pro­gram, which pro­vides fund­ing for imme­di­ate-impact projects. If a bridge needs rebuild­ing, the Afghan peo­ple will build it with cement sup­plied by the U.S. mil­i­tary. By man­date, con­trac­tors must hire local work­ers for such pro­grams.

The rela­tion­ship between the provin­cial gov­ern­ments and Afghanistan’s cen­tral gov­ern­ment is strong, Roy said.

“The gov­er­nors that we have in all three of our provinces under­stand what the require­ments are to over­see the needs of the peo­ple,” Roy said.

“It’s the Afghans who are lead­ing the way,” he added. “And it’s been that way for quite some time.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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