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US Says Afghan Violence Hasn't Stopped Reconstruction in East

22 August 2007

U.S. officials say a recent surge of violence in Afghanistan has not hurt reconstruction efforts in the eastern part of the country. U.S. officials based in Jalalabad briefed reporters Wednesday via satellite about projects to build roads, dams and irrigation channels in one eastern province. VOA's Cindy Saine reports from Washington.

Four months ago, the United States deployed a special reconstruction team to the eastern province of Nangahar. The team is staffed by active duty soldiers and airmen, reservists who are farmers and ranchers in civilian life, and specialists from the Departments of State and Agriculture.

Lieutenant Colonel Gordon Phillips describes the mission.

"During our missions we assess community needs and in cooperation with the government we build schools, government centers, roads, medical capability and other basic infrastructure projects, using Afghan contractors and labor," he said. "We also provide economic development opportunities, many designed to aid women and disabled Afghans."

Phillips said the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 50 to 60 percent of the produce that grows in Nangahar's lush river valley is left rotting in the fields. The reconstruction team is working to build cold storage facilities and local roads so that the produce can get to market.

Asked about how security concerns are affecting projects, Colonel Phillips said there have been no delays for security reasons in Nangahar.

"We have been able to move throughout the entire province and make reconstruction efforts happen," he added.

The Department of State representative, Shawn Waddoups, said the projects are increasingly winning over war-weary Afghans who have been waiting to make up their minds about which side to support.

"What we are seeing is that these individuals are more and more getting off the fence and not submitting to the intimidation that the Taleban is trying to use to keep them on that fence," he explained. "They are more often coming to us with reports of where IED's have been located, where fighters are moving. They are helping us and they are displaying confidence, not only in the coalition forces, but in the Afghan national security forces and in the Afghan government."

Neither Waddoups nor Colonel Phillips would provide any figures on the number of tips they have received from Afghans about planned attacks or improvised explosive devices. But Phillips said Nangahar has seen less violence than other Afghan provinces.

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