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Ghazni

In AD 652, Afghanistan fell to the conquering Arabs who brought with them Islam. Arab hegemony gave way to renewed Persian predominance, which continued until AD 998, when Mahmud of Ghazni, a Turkic ruler, assumed control. Ghazni became the capital. After Mahmud's death, Afghanistan was ruled by various princes until the invasion of the great Mongol leader, Genghis Khan, in the early 13th century. This resulted in the destruction of Herat, Ghazni, Balkh, and other Afghan cities. Marco Polo passed through Afghanistan later in that century.

Strategically located on the Kabul-Kandahar trade route, Ghazni has a long and rich history as a center for culture and commerce. It is poised to reaffirm its historic role as a great trading center, a flourishing market for numerous agricultural products, and one of Afghanistan's most fascinating historical sites.

An Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter crashed 18 miles north of Ghazni, Afghanistan, on 23 March 2003, killing all aboard. Six airmen died in the crash. Enemy fire was not a factor in the crash. The helicopter crew was on its way to evacuate two Afghan children for medical treatment in the US facilities at Bagram. One child had a head injury, the other an eye injury. Both children arrived safely in Bagram on March 24.

After a winter marked by heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures, spring rains have brought relief to areas affected by years of drought. While this has been welcome in many cases, the spring thaw has also brought flooding and extremely high water levels in many areas. On 29 March 2005, an ancient dam was unable to contain the high water levels coming from the mountains and broke, suddenly flooding the southeastern city of Ghazni and other villages.

The disaster could have been catastrophic, except for the warning provided by the local USAID/OTI-supported FM radio station, Radio Ghaznawiyaan. The quick-thinking USAID/OTI-funded Salaam Watandar journalists provided life-saving warnings to thousands of residents, broadcast via Radio Ghaznawiyaan.

After receiving early-morning calls about the potential collapse of Ghazni's Sultan Water Dam, the Kabul-based journalists quickly called the Ghazni Provincial Governor. On air, he confirmed that "water pressure may break the dam and in that case it will destroy a number of villages on its way, especially Khwaja Omari and Ghazni." The journalists followed up with the Governor, asking what people should do. The Governor responded, "I am informing all the residents living near the river of Ghazni that they should immediately leave with their families and go as far as they can. We have instructed our police department to help the people."

Years of drought have allowed the main bazaar of Ghazni to expand into the riverbank. Without the advance warning broadcast over the radio, hundreds of residents and shopkeepers could have drowned. One Ghazni resident told a Salaam Watandar journalist, "I was listening to Radio Ghaznawiyaan when the broadcasts about the Sultan Water Dam began, so I turned the volume up and I understood that we had to run." The station was also credited with saving lives in the village of Zamin Kola. Residents reportedly left their homes immediately upon hearing the warning on the USAID-funded Radio Ghaznawiyaan. Minutes later, the village was destroyed by the flood from the burst dam.

Radio Ghaznawiyaan (FM 80.3) is one of 32 independent radio stations in Afghanistan established with USAID/OTI support. This independent station employs 4 female and 12 male journalists, produces local programming, and relays national reports from Salaam Watandar, daily national programming sent by satellite to these and other stations throughout Afghanistan. A recently completed USAID-funded study of Afghan media consumption and usage found Afghans trust these independent radio stations more than any other source for local information.

A CH-47 helicopter crashed near Ghazni, Afghanistan, on 6 April 2005 during a dust storm.

In April 2005 Taliban insurgents posted three "night letters" throughout Ghazni Province warning citizens to stop supporting the government of Afghanistan and Coalition forces. Additionally, a Taliban spokesman has stated that because schools and hospitals are run by the government, they should be considered legitimate targets in fighting the insurgency.

The first night letter was reported to have been placed on the body of an Afghan National Army soldier who had been killed. The Taliban elements, claiming to operate on the foundations of Islam, exhumed the soldier who had been buried shortly after his death and proceeded to mutilate the body and post a note on the soldier's head.

The second letter was posted on several houses in Ghazni Province, and again warned the villagers to stop supporting the government of Afghanistan and Coalition forces. The third letter was posted on the door of a mosque.

Ghazni Provincial Reconstruction Team [PRT]

A team of approximately 50 soldiers manned the partially operational Provincial Reconstruction Team [PRT] since January 2004, integrating the efforts of the Afghan government, the non-governmental organization community and the coalition as well as setting conditions to enhance security and bring a wide variety of programs and initiatives aimed at enabling and assisting Afghans realize their vision of building a stable, self-sufficient nation.

By early 2004 in Ghazni, there was an infantry battalion commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel, and a PRT [commanded by another Lieutenant Colonel, who work very closely together. The battalion commander would have his squads, his platoons, his companies, out in the villages where they get to know the village elders, and where they get to know the terrain, and where they get to know who normally is in these villages and who is not.

The result has been an increase in information coming in through both the infantry battalions, and that has resulted in a much larger number, a dramatically increased number of caches, weapons caches, being identified and destroyed. In Ghazni the combination of provincial reconstruction teams and the infantry battalion, with its much larger capabilities, has been to improve the security in that part of a very difficult province.

In December 2003 a UN worker was killed by the Taliban. They pulled up beside her car. Since the PRT and the battalion was co-located in Ghazni in January 2004, there have been no such incidents.

The Coalition-led Provincial Reconstruction Team in Ghazni officially opens its doors on 04 March 2004 following a ceremony at the site. The Ghazni PRT serves the whole province, potentially reaching 1.86 million people. This official opening represents another step in the PRT expansion process aimed at extending the reach of the Afghan central government by delivering security and dramatically accelerating reconstruction, development and long-term stability across Afghanistan.

In many regions of Afghanistan, provincial reconstruction teams are helping the people rebuild their war-torn country. It's the same in Ghazni province. Coalition soldiers, joined by a representative from the US Agency for International Development and a representative from the Afghan national government's Ministry of the Interior, are working together to make improvements across the province.

These projects range from rebuilding schools and hospitals, to paving roads, digging wells and building a library that boasts more than 1,000 volumes. The PRT also donates supplies to establishments, including schools, hospitals and orphanages.

Members of the Ghazni Provincial Reconstruction Team and the local government are looking at long-term improvements to be made in their region, adding to the redevelopment taking place throughout Afghanistan. One of those projects with long-term benefits is improvements to roads in the area. By improving the roads of Ghazni, they have tackled two issues - the landscape and the economy.

On 29 July 2004 the official completion and opening of two important roads in the City of Ghazni -- the Kandahar Bus Station Road and the newly resurfaced Hospital Road. U.S. Ambassador Khalilzad, Ghazni Governor Asadulla, Minister of Transportation, and Minister of Interior all participated in ribbon-cutting at the terminus of the Bus Station Road.

The Hospital Road significantly improved access for the citizens of Ghazni to emergency services provided at the Ghazni Hospital, the only major hospital situated between Kabul and Kandahar. The Bus Station Road at its junction with the Ring Road will improve transportation and create a venue for expanded markets, retail shops and services in central Ghazni. These roads serve as important arteries for the Ghazni City center and will enhance freedom of movement and commerce from Ghazni to other regions of the country via the Ring Road.

Though the Taliban claims to control Ghazni Province, Afghan National Army soldiers and Coalition forces maintain a strong presence in the province. Additionally, the Ghazni Provincial Reconstruction Team has many ongoing projects throughout the province. Since Feb. 1 alone, the PRT has approved more than $330,000 to fund projects throughout the province.

One of those projects is refurbishment of the Returnees and Refugees building in Ghazni city, which has been approved for $24,000. An additional project is seed and fertilizer distribution to areas throughout the province, which is estimated to cost $110,000. There are also projects to improve and renovate schools, and projects to distribute and plant fruit and nut trees in the Andar, Giro and Wagas districts. One project provides $3,000 to refurbish a mosque in Ghazni city.




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