Once a Taliban stronghold, Gardez is the site of a US firebase and a relatively secure area. The Regional Brigade Facilities at Gardez is a $65 million project to provide a base for over 6,000 Afghan Soldiers. A true fast-track, design-build effort, the project provides living, office, maintenance and training facilities, complete with supporting infrastructure (power plant and distribution system, water and sewer systems, roads, and communications), with less than a 12-month schedule.
About 160 employees of the US Army Corps of Engineers Afghanistan Engineer District, or AED, made a significant positive impact on the reconstruction of Afghanistan. The design-build project for the Afghan National Army Regional Brigade Facilities in Gardez is a prime example, but one must first understand the "big picture" to appreciate the true contribution of Corps employees.
The AED provides services that support the Coalition Forces Command-Afghanistan and subordinate commands with an estimated $705 million in fiscal year 2005 programmed expenses. AED major programs include the US Agency for International Development Infrastructure Program, which provides roads, bridges, and dams; the Coalition Forces Program, which provides facilities for coalition forces; the Counter-Narcotics and Afghan National Police program, which provides new and renovated law enforcement facilities; and the Afghan National Army program, or ANA, which provides Afghan army bases.
The $800 million ANA Program was constructing eight regional bases. The Afghan Army is graduating units from mobilization training at a rate of six battalions (about 4,000 Soldiers) per month. One such regional base is near the southeastern Afghanistan town of Gardez.
Phase I of the Disarmament, Demobilization, and Re-integration (DDR) agreement announced before the Berlin Conference called for all heavy weapons to be cantoned and 40% of Afghan militia forces to be disarmed and demobilized by June 30th. The United States is working hard to support this process, which is being led by the Japanese and the United Nations. By the end of June 2004 heavy weapons surveys were complete in all regions with the exception of Gardez, which was ongoing.
On December 2, 2006 a ceremony was held at Fire Base Gardez comemorating the establishment of a the new "Firebase Wilderness" in the southeastern Paktya Province which bridges the gap between American outposts at Gardez and Salerno. In attendance were Gov. Arsala Jamal of Khost Province and sub-governors representing districts in the Khost-Gardez Pass region, key U.S. Army leaders and Soldiers, members of Afghan National Security Forces and local shura members. Col. John Nicholson, Task Force Spartan commander, headed an American delegation.
"Firebase Wilderness," opened amid discussions, speeches, a gun salute and the raising of the Afghan national flag. A shura of regional political officials, security personnel, key military leaders and local elders preceded the opening of the firebase, which established an enduring allied presence along the vital thoroughfare traversing the K-G Pass.
A series of Afghan speakers addressed about 75 participants before the flag-raising. Speeches focused on regional security and the way ahead for the region and its people. Artillerymen from the 4-25 FA celebrated the establishment of the firebase with a gun salute.
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