Lt Col Dave Wilson MBE RE, Commanding Officer of our locally-based 23 Engineer Regiment (Air Assault), writes home from Afghanistan
As the days continue in their now familiar routine, it is easy to forget just how much is being done. The constant patrolling of the villages and fields to keep the foreign Taliban from the population, the immense construction work to properly house the force through the coming winter, the daily support to the Afghan army and police to provide the security the population crave, and the careful nurturing of local government to deliver a better quality of life the regiment is involved in it all.
From one day to the next, progress can seem slow but over the months we have definitely seen a change. Five months ago Darvishan, the main market town in Garmsir, south of Lashkar Gar, was a deserted ghost town, devoid of population. The bazaar is now bustling with shops, the doctor in the re-opened health clinic treats over a hundred patients a day and, with a little help, local children and villagers are renovating their school ready for the new term. There is still fear and uncertainty, but people are back in their own homes, trying to live their own lives. In other areas progress is less tangible, but these things take time. The whole of northern Afghanistan is now essentially peaceful if we have enough patience, the south could be too.
After a safe and secure life, the most common Afghan requests are water, electricity and employment. Water is relatively easy. Wells can be dug, water towers built, and with a few standpipes towns can have water for irrigation or to drink. Electricity is slightly harder; generators require electricians and a constant supply of fuel to be paid for and transported, so they are not sustainable for mountain villages. Fortunately in the north of Helmand is the Kajaki Dam with its hydroelectric power station. Built in the 1950s by a US consortium, it was maintained by the Russians during their occupation and is now being repaired by a Chinese company (apparently the worlds experts), funded by US AID. It should eventually produce enough electricity to power most of Helmand and Kandahar. When it does, electricity will support business, which will provide jobs thats the theory anyway. If we can help keep development on track, we will in time get there.
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