BALKH PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
By: Sgt. 1st Class Pete Mayes
BALKH PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The 101st Sustainment Brigade has continued to work with their northern Afghan partners in ensuring the success of the ambitious Hairatan gate border crossing project.
The project, also known as the Northern Distribution Network, has been cited by brigade commander Col. Michael Peterman as a “logistical game-changer” if done correctly, particularly in terms of what it will mean for the Afghan community and U.S. forces as they prepare for the eventual withdrawal.
The “Lifeliners” serve as the proverbial “eyes and ears” for coalition forces in Regional Command North for U.S. and Afghan cargo supply and distribution coming in and out of the country through the area, said Maj. Jesse Wentworth, former tactical command post officer in charge for Forward Operating Base Hairatan.
They’ve also established solid partnerships with key regional leaders in an attempt to help bring about economic stability up north since arriving to the area earlier this year.
“Big picture, [the crossing] is important because it’s a large border crossing, as well as an alternative to other border crossings here, so limiting any disruptions would be of interest to us,” he said.
“By having boots on the ground, we can give real time information to the brigade as to what’s here and flowing, as well as partnering with the Afghans. The same planes and trucks coming across the border that are contracted for us do the same for them.”
Wentworth said several agencies have interest in the Hairatan Gate Border crossing because of its geographical location.
For starters, it is the first and only border crossing with a functioning rail line which currently runs from Hairatan all the way to Mazar-E-Sharif. The intent is to re-establish the distribution network in the north through Europe and Central Asia, and tie that line into its infrastructure.
Another aspect of the crossing is its ability to improve economy up north. Dr. Hashim Barna, chief administrator of harbor services in Hairatan, said as commerce improves in the region, so does the quality of life.
“Not only does it provide economic stability and security in the region, but is also has the potential to play a significant role in bringing prosperity around the gateway to Central Asia,” he said.
Barna also said the collaboration between Coalition forces and regional Afghan leaders helps establish trust between the two. “It lets the Afghan people here know that the U.S. is here to help,” he said.
Finally, while promoting economic stability in the region, establishing a rail line at the Hairatan gate border crossing fits firmly into the intent laid out by International Security Assistance Forces Commander Gen. David Petraeus to create a means of a future withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“We’re trying to think two to three steps ahead of where we’re at. A safe, reliable route from Afghanistan is a plus,” Wentworth said. “But we also need to ensure that we’re meeting [President Obama’s] intent and conditions that are being laid out.
The rail line was funded by the Central Asian banks and the Uzbekistan government built it.
“It’s just one step in the development of this region,” Wentworth said. “It’s been tested and shown to be functional. All that needs to be agreed upon is the day-to-day operation of it. That’s something that has to be figured out between the two governments.”
“We have an inherent responsibility of being involved and developing a relationship with the people of the region. They’re not going to tell a stranger about the problems they’re having, or take advice. We’ve been able to work through that.”
“What’s good for the Port of Hairatan is good for the future of Afghanistan, Wentworth said.
||BALKH PROVINCE, AF
This work, Why Hairatan Gate matters, by MSG Peter Mayes, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.