The first extensive American contact with Afghanistan was made by Josiah Harlan, an adventurer from Pennsylvania who was an adviser in Afghan politics in the 1830s and reputedly inspired Rudyard Kipling's story "The Man Who Would be King." After the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1934, the U.S. policy of helping developing nations raise their standard of living was an important factor in maintaining and improving U.S.-Afghan ties. From 1950 to 1979, U.S. foreign assistance provided Afghanistan with more than $500 million in loans, grants, and surplus agricultural commodities to develop transportation facilities, increase agricultural production, expand the educational system, stimulate industry, and improve government administration.
In the 1950s, the US declined Afghanistan's request for defense cooperation but extended an economic assistance program focused on the development of Afghanistan's physical infrastructure--roads, dams, and power plants. Later, U.S. aid shifted from infrastructure projects to technical assistance programs to help develop the skills needed to build a modern economy. The Peace Corps was active in Afghanistan between 1962 and 1979.
After the April 1978 coup, relations deteriorated. In February 1979, U.S. Ambassador Adolph "Spike" Dubs was murdered in Kabul after Afghan security forces burst in on his kidnapers. The U.S. then reduced bilateral assistance and terminated a small military training program. All remaining assistance agreements were ended after the Soviet invasion.
Following the Soviet invasion, the United States supported diplomatic efforts to achieve a Soviet withdrawal. In addition, generous U.S. contributions to the refugee program in Pakistan played a major part in efforts to assist Afghans in need. U.S. efforts also included helping Afghans living inside Afghanistan. This cross-border humanitarian assistance program aimed at increasing Afghan self-sufficiency and helping Afghans resist Soviet attempts to drive civilians out of the rebel-dominated countryside. During the period of Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the U.S. provided about $3 billion in military and economic assistance to Afghans and the resistance movement.
The U.S. embassy in Kabul was closed in January 1989 for security reasons, but officially reopened as an embassy on January 17, 2002. Throughout the difficult and turbulent past 20 years, the U.S. has supported the peaceful emergence of a broad-based government representative of all Afghans and has been active in encouraging a UN role in the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan. The U.S. provides financial aid for mine-clearing activities and other humanitarian assistance to Afghans through international organizations. The U.S. is the largest provider of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. The aid effort has continued despite a U.S. cruise missile attack on a terrorist camp in Afghanistan associated with Usama bin Laden in 1998 , with the military action taken against terrorist and Taliban targets in October 2001 and the ongoing actions of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Lieutenant General David Barno, the new US military commander in Afghanistan, announced on 21 December 2003 that the United States would establish additional bases in the south and east of the country to make conditions safer for aid workers. The bases, a significant alteration of American strategy and tactics, will likely draw a strong reaction from insurgents behind attacks in those areas.
Afghanistan is divided into three sectors for area support. This permits the support battalions at Karshi-Khanabad, Bagram Airfield, and Kandahar Airfield to support one another if necessary. For example, when problems at a Pakistani refinery delayed fuel shipments to Kandahar Airfield, the 129th Logistics Task Force at Bagram provided a 150,000-gallon emergency resupply. [The 129th Logistics Task Force consisted of the 129th Corps Support Battalion of the 10th Corps Support Group from Fort Campbell, Kentucky.] When distribution troubles prevented a supply of unitized group rations from reaching Bagram Airfield, the 10th FSB provided excess rations. The area support sector concept enables units such as Special Forces and those involved in provincial reconstruction teams to access local support assets without deploying their own direct support units.
As of March 2005 Coalition air forces sustained more than 17,000 Coalition troops - many in austere locations, some primarily through air drop. They provide airlift of cargo and personnel, supporting operations at 14 different airfields. The size of these facilities runs large airbases like Bagram, to smaller airfields like Salerno, Shkin, or Tarin Kowt, to dirt strips like Farah.
In early 2005 the US Air Force sent out an assessment team to look at all 14 of these airfields, as well as other airfields in Afghanistan. The first goal was to make sure they were safe not only for Coalition aircraft, but for aircraft from the United Nations and the World Food Program. Second, they looked at these airfields to see what improvements needed to be made to ensure their long-term endurance and usefulness.
As of early 2005 $83 million in military construction was underway at Bagram and Kandahar. The Air Force was continuously improving runways, taxiways, navigation aids, airfield lighting, billeting and other facilities to support this demanding mission.
On 10 February 2005, NATO announced that ISAF would be expand into the western Afghanistan. This process began on 31 May 2005, when ISAF took on command of a Forward Support Base (FSB) in Herat and two additional Provincial Reconstruction Teams, in the provinces of Herat and Farah. In the summer of 2005, two further ISAF-led PRTs in the western Afghanistan became operational, one in Chagcharan, capital of Ghor province, and one in Qal'eh-Now, capital of Baghdis province, thus completing ISAF's expansion into the West. The extended ISAF mission would provide security assistance in 50% of Afghanistan's territory.
The 451st Air Expeditionary Group at Kandahar Airfield, a geographically separated unit under the 455th AEW, brings additional support in combat search and rescue, direct combat air power, security, communications, medical evacuation and mobility operations to the southern portion of the operations area.
The Air Component had more than 150 aircraft at Bagram and Kandahar as of early 2005 - aircraft belonging to the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines and Coalition partners. Both airfields log more than 4,000 takeoffs and landings, and transport over 3,000 passengers and close to 2,000 tons of cargo per week - more than four times that of Kabul's weekly air traffic, passenger and cargo movement.
The airmen who make this mission happen day in and day out come from all over the Air Force - active duty, Air National Guard, Air Reserve and Air Force civilians. From the 451st AEG at Kandahar to the bulk of the 455th AEW at Bagram, our Air Force presence is over 1,000-people strong.
The facilities the Corps of Engineers is building at Bagram Air Force Base as well as other U.S. operational bases in Afghanistan are semi-permanent structures. These buildings are constructed using more permanent materials such as cement blocks and provide a higher level of force protection than wooden or other less permanent types of construction. Cement blocks and concrete are also locally available while lumber or other prefabricated structures must be brought in from outside the region. Using locally available materials saves transportation costs and make these brick and mortar facilities close in price to less permanent types of facilities. The general objective for construction is to upgrade the quality of life for US soldiers. Many soldiers have been living in tents or wooden huts for over three years, which were originally designed to be used for 6-24 months.
Provincial Reconstruction Teams
Throughout history, Afghanistan has demonstrated a remarkable ability to resist attempts to invade and colonize. As such, many Afghans are skeptical of international aid and the motives behind such assistance. The most remote areas of the country are particularly well known for their resistance to intervention by both foreign powers and the central government in Kabul.
In order to help to establish a more secure Afghanistan and to expand reconstruction programmes beyond large cities, Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) have been established in various provinces throughout Afghanistan. The Provincial Reconstruction Teams reflect a shift in strategy away from large military deployments to a "hearts and minds" campaign focused on community-level civil projects and improved local intelligence.
Provisional Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) have helped promote security, stability operations, reconstruction and have led to innovative initiatives, such as the Regional Development Zones and Security Sector Reform. This effort should lead to the ultimate objective of this operation - the ability of the Islamic Transition Government of Afghanistan to effectively govern, protect, and provide for its own people.
PRTs work closely with the Afghan government, coordinate and manage important Civil Military Operations (CMO) activities throughout Afghanistan, and interact daily with coalition military staff, UNAMA, NGOs U.S. Embassy, USAID, and other important organisations.
The PRTs support the local government as well as non-governmental organisations in their efforts to rebuild the country at the regional level. Principally, they are involved in fostering relations with the key political figures whilst, at the same time, promoting Afghan governmental initiatives to improve security. The PRTs form smaller, self-sufficient teams, known as Military Observer Teams (MOTs), which travel out to the more remote regions to meet with the local community and regional leaders with the aim of promoting the authority of the central and regional governments.
Following the establishment of an ISAF pilot PRT in Kunduz under German leadership in December 2003, ISAF established permanent PRT presences in Mazar-E Sharif (UK), Meymana (UK), Feyzabad (Germany) and Baghlan (the Netherlands). Together with a Forward Support Base (a logistics hub) near Mazar-E-Sharif and temporary satellite presences in Sar-e-Pol, Samangan, Sherberghan, ISAF was thus be able to influence security in 9 northern provinces of the country.
As of April 2004 there were twelve PRTs, which included nine U.S. PRTs (Gardez, Jalalabad, Khowst, Parwan, Herat, Qalat, Ghazni, Khandahar, and Asadabad), two coalition PRTs, (Mazar-e-Sharif and Bamyan) and one ISAF PRT (Konduz). At that time there were four additional PRTs planned for operation prior to 30 June 2004 (Tarin Kowt, Sharana, Lashkar-Gah, and Farah). By summer 2004, sixteen teams were in place, each consisting of 60 to 100 members tailored to a region's specific needs.As of February 2005 there were nineteen PRT's in the country. Of those ninteen, five of them were ISAF PRTs in the north of the country and fourteen were coalition PRTs in the south, east and west of the country. There were plans in the near future to expand PRTs to new communities. The Afghan government considers Qal'eh-ye Now and Chaghcharan to be priority locations and plans to begin PRT programs in these remote and inaccessible provinces.
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