News: Progress in Southern Afghanistan
SHAH WALI KOT, Afghanistan — More than thirty Shura Members came together to discuss future projects in the Shah Wali Kot District, Afghanistan.
More than 30 shura members gathered, March 22, in Shah Wali Kot, Afghanistan, to speak with the District Governor about proposed projects to better the district. The main topic of discussion was the Kandahar Irrigation Rehabilitation Project, coined the Dahla Dam Project, which would greatly improve the irrigation systems' efficiency in the Southern region of Shah Wali Kot.
Lt. Col. Patrick Gaydon, commander of the Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, said the higher turnouts in recent weeks are a product of improved security and that the people feel safer traveling to the district center.
"The troops out with [1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5/2 ID (SBCT)] have worked with Afghan national police to establish the kind of security that gives the people confidence to travel to the shuras," he said. "If they're afraid of being blown up, or confronted by the Taliban in their homes, they won't attend. Task Force Stryker has worked hard to make them feel safe."
The Dahla Dam is 58 years old, and carries with it 58 years of wear and tear. Water flows from the dam, down through the Arghandab District, and also splits through a series of canals to Kandahar City. The people of Sha Wali Kot acknowledge repair of the Dahla Dam won't provide much service to the northern areas of the district, which does not seem to be a point of contention. The biggest concerns presented in the shura were the possibilities of the proposed projects damaging the land, and to make sure jobs are created in the district.
"The people want the workers on these projects to come from the local area," said Aamer Aman, a U.S. Interpreter from McAllen, Texas. "The Governor reassured them that if they have qualified workers, jobs will be created for locals. If they have no qualified workers, the projects will most likely be contracted out of Kandahar City, but all the unskilled jobs will be given to local workers."
Aman said he felt there was a bit of tension in the shura due to lack of visible progress over the last two years.
"They're tired of talking," said Aman. "It's been two years they've been talking about the dam."
Aman also said that he perceived the Shah Wali Kot people's trust in coalition forces and the government of Afghanistan growing with each project completed in the region.
"People are seeing that when Task Force Stryker makes promises, we follow up," said Gaydon. "The culvert denial systems have not only been a visible improvement, they've made a difference in the level of security as well. Visible progress like that shows them the kinds of things we can do for them, and the kinds of things they can do for themselves to better their land."