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American Forces Press Service

New Provincial Reconstruction Team to Open in Afghanistan>

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 24, 2004 - A new provincial reconstruction team in Khowst opens March 25, bringing the total of PRTs in the country to 12.

Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan officials said four more teams are scheduled to open in the next several months.

PRTs serve as a catalyst for stabilization, building relationships and enabling Afghanistan's reconstruction and development, officials said. They also help unify the country, officials added, by expanding the influence of the country's central government out into the provinces, well beyond the national capital of Kabul.

Officials in Kabul today also provided an update on recent events and military operations in Afghanistan:

Four Afghan National Army soldiers were killed and five ANA and four U.S. soldiers were injured after an accidental detonation March 23 during demolitions training near Gardez.

On March 22, weapons caches were found near Bagram and Shkin. Near Gardez, an Afghan citizen on March 23 turned in a cache with more than 400 recoilless rifle rounds and 100 mortar rounds.

U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad announced March 21 that the United States will fund construction of 152 new schools and refurbishment of 255 more within the next six months.

He made the announcement at a ceremony opening the new school year, the third since the collapse of the Taliban regime. An estimated 5.5 million students are expected to return to the classroom this year, 1.5 million more than last year. The percentage of girls attending school grew to 36 percent last year, and that number is expected to further increase this year, officials said.

Since 2002, the United States has built or rehabilitated more than 200 schools, reached 16,000 students through accelerated learning programs, trained 2,100 teachers, and distributed 10.3 million textbooks.

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