HeratHerat, in western Afghanistan, is less than 50 miles from the Iranian border. Herat seems to be a clean, progressive town, with not as much war damage as Kabul. The area is controlled by the war-lord Ismail Khan. He may be the most powerful man in Afghanistan. Even being one of the nicest areas in the country, it is still far below the worst areas in the states. See oxen plowing fields, people on bikes, burrows, and packed in open trucks like sardines. Herat is near the Iran border and is a big trade center. There are a lot of Pine trees planted along the road from the airport.
The Kandahar-Herat segment of the Ring Road was first constructed by the Soviets in the 1960s while, at the same time, the US Army Corps of Engineers built the Kabul-Kandahar segment. It was during the height of the Cold War, when the former Soviet Union and the United States were vying for influence in Afghanistan.
During the 1960s the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Mediterranean Division oversaw a program to modernize Afghanistan's road system, a rudimentary 1,700-mile circular route of rock-bed and dirt linking principal towns. The Afghanistan Area Office of the Mediterranean Division's Gulf District was established at Kabul and the district opened a resident office in Kandahar in January 1961 to supervise the construction. Numerous problems plagued work crews, including a border clash between Afghanistan and Pakistan that ultimately restricted construction for several years and required the contractor to develop alternate routes for transporting equipment and supplies, principally through Mashhad, Iran, to Herat, and then on to Kandahar. The road was finally completed in the summer of 1966. The final phase of the highway project was the completion of a 75-mile road from Herat to Islam Qala on the Iranian frontier. The project cost more than $70 million.
In 1966 the work of repaving the Kabul to Qandahar to Herat road was finished and Afghans were able to move speedily between these three important cities. America played a major role in the building of that road too. Unfortunately, the Afghans only had a little over a decade to enjoy the benefits of the highway before the country was plunged into its long desperate night. Foreign invasion and interference, communist rule, neglect, and yes, the bitter and merciless fighting of civil war destroyed the road and the country.
It is a symbol of the best of the new and the old Afghanistan. It is a symbol of the old because this route from Kabul to Qandahar to Herat is a very ancient one. It is a trade route going back thousands of years. We know from a study of history that the jewels of Afghanistan, the rubies and lapis lazuli of Badakhshan traveled this way to the tombs of the Pharaohs and the temples of Babylon. Later, the same treasures went by camel caravan to the palaces of the Khalifas in Baghdad and Samarra.
Holy men and scholars also used the road - Al-Biruni traveling from Khorasan to the court of Mahmud of Ghazni, Imam Abu Hanifah to the colleges of Baghdad and Kufa, Sheykh Muin al-Din Muhammad traveling from Chisht-i-Sharif to farthest India to preach the true Islam of love and light. These were Afghans influencing the world and being shaped by it. Even today the road is littered with the remains of ancient khans and caravanserais that welcomed the tired and thirsty traveler - at Sar-i-Asp and at Mokur.
In 1997, Taliban leaders drove a 600 year-old Afghan art form to near extinction when they fired 22 of the 30 craftsmen at the Blue Mosque Tile Factory. The eight remaining blue-tile artisans held in their hands the fate of this ancient craft. After U.S. and coalition forces expelled the Taliban from power in 2001, the factory, now called the Blue Mosque Preservation Center, began to flourish.
The WHO Health Update for 14 December 2001 indicated that acute respiratory infections, including pneumonia, remained the primary concern for 300,000 people gathered in and around Herat. Tuberculosis is especially a concern in the overcrowded Maslakh camp near Herat. Lobbying had begun for a new IDP camp near Herat so that Maslakh camp can be closed to new arrivals. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) conducted a full re-registration of all residents of Maslakh camp using scannable bracelets for the heads of family. As of late 2001 Maslakh held an estimated 200,000-300,000 residents.
Herat is known for the production and sale of rugs. Apparently you can buy them for 1/5 to 1/3 of what you may pay in the states. Even so the rugs are expensive. You can buy the hand made, machine made, silk, wool, camel wool, combination of both, etc. You can spend anywhere from $80 to $1,500 depending on which tribe made the rug and material in the rug.
Ismail Khan (b. 1946) is known as the "Lion of Herat". He was from time to time the governor of Herat province, Afghanistan. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan of 1979, Khan was an officer in the Afghanistan army, reaching the rank of Mujahedin commander. After becoming governor of Herat the first time, he was forced to flee after the Taliban took over authority in 1995.
In Herat, a US reporter asked Governor Ismail Khan whether women are more restricted in his province than in other parts of Afghanistan. "We should not expect freedom to be given right away," he replied. "The people are not ready for it." [Susan B. Glasser, "An Unfinished Country," The Washington Post, May 12, 2002, pp. A1, 14-15.]
While the situation for most women and girls in Afghanistan had improved since the fall of the Taliban, by early 2003 there were signs that Taliban-era restrictions were again being promulgated and enforced in some parts of the country. There were credible reports that in the province of Herat, the local governor Ismail Khan had censored women's groups, intimidated outspoken women leaders, and sidelined women from his administration.
There were reports that police in Herat were detaining women and girls caught alone with unrelated men and forcing them to submit to a medical examination to determine if they have recently had sexual intercourse. This worsening situation for women and girls is not limited to Herat. Credible reports from across the country indicate that women and girls were facing increasingly harsh restrictions by local leaders.
By early 2004 the Afghan National Army is pulling more and more weight as more soldiers were trained. By then there were about 9,600 ANA soldiers with 7,000 trained and operational. A thousand ANA soldiers went to Herat in the western part of the country in April 2004 to quell violence. They were successful. Part of that is because they are connected to and represent the national government.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai seemed to be consolidating power, although his move to replace Herat governor and strongman Ismail Khan triggered riots in the provincial capital on 12 September 2004. Prime Minister Karzai successfully relieved several powerful warlords of their core commands in the summer of 2004. He relieved Ismail Khan of his position as the Governor of Herat. Although there were some demonstrations following the decision to remove Ismail Khan, the Afghan National Army, with supportive coalition forces, restored stability very quickly. There was a new Governor in Herat.
In September 2004 unrest in Herat was confined to a small area of the city and was quickly brought under control. Afghan National Police and Army elements and coalition forces restored order after a small band of local nationals, most between ages 15 and 25, began throwing stones. There were no direct-fire incidents between coalition forces and anyone else in Herat as a result of the coalition's dealing with protesters. Coalition forces used restraint in dealing with the unrest caused by protestors and did not fire a single round, according to command officials.
On Sept. 13, 2004 Afghan National Army and coalition forces remained at a distance to assure the crowd remained peaceful during two non-violent demonstrations. The streets were vacant in Herat and the city is calm with Afghan soldiers and police continuing to patrol to ensure security and order. The security of Herat and all the country's provinces concern officials.
Col. Robert Hipwell was awarded the Purple Heart Medal after being wounded in action during his service in Afghanistan. Hipwell was wounded during a riot by forces loyal to the ousted governor of Herat in September 2004.
As of 01 December 2003 the Herat Provincial Reconstruction Team headquarters is officially open for business. The headquarters serves the provinces of Herat, Farah, Ghowr, and Badghis, a potential clientele of 3 million. Commanded and supported by Combined Task Force 180, the PRT aims to make a real difference in the lives of the people in the region by setting conditions for stabilization, security, and reconstruction.
Initial response to the Herat PRT has been extremely encouraging. This presence helps establish security. The local leaders and citizens want the PRT to be here. Local dignitaries, including governors of three of the four provinces that the PRT serves, attended the 01 December 2003 ceremony.
The Herat "house" was the sixth of 12 projected PRTs sponsored by CJTF 180 in Afghanistan. Mezar-e-Sharif, Gardez, Bamian, Konduz, and Parwan also host PRTs, with new team headquarters scheduled to open soon in Jalalabad, Kandahar, Qalat, and elsewhere - each one a concrete manifestation of the coalition's commitment to stabilization and security.
Combat operations are necessary to defeat the enemy, but reconstruction and development are necessary to win the battle for a better future. PRTs help attain that strategic goal, working hand-in-hand with provincial governors, local officials, Afghan government ministers, the United Nations, and other international agencies. Through consolidation of efforts, rebuilding becomes a reality. The PRT is one tool in the kit to facilitate the reconstruction process.
Civil affairs teams patrol the region, visiting towns, brokering productive relationships between people, the government, and various aid organizations to encourage reconstruction. With the PRT's assistance, local laborers are hired to repave roads, rebuild bridges, repair schools and clinics, and drill wells. Such projects re-establish an infrastructure seriously damaged by years of war while benefiting the economy.
PRTs are designed to operate in remote areas where other non-governmental organizations traditionally have no presence, creating a safer environment that encourages the NGOs to expand their operations - extending the reach of the national government and directly benefiting local populations.
The potential of the PRT is illustrated with the example of a cement factory on the outskirts of Herat, abandoned by the Soviets during their occupation in the 1980s. If the team's influence can spur a reopening of the plant it could mean 5,000 jobs for the region.
Roving teams let the PRT cover a huge area with limited resources. That's particularly important here, considering that the four provinces served by the Herat PRT make up more than 20 percent of Afghanistan's territory.
The long-term goals include establishing "safe houses" in each province, places where the teams can live and work for a week or two at a time. It's kind of the hub-and-spoke concept, with the headquarters at the center and the safe houses extending PRT capability into the outer regions. Herat itself is a sensible location for the western PRT. The airport is here. Logistical support is available here. Many NGOs have their headquarters here.
On 01 April 2005 Italian Col. Aldo Guaccio assumed command of the Herat Provincial Reconstruction Team from U.S. Navy Cdr. Kimberly Evans. The ceremony was part of the International Security Assistance Force expansion into western Afghanistan, marking the reduction of U.S. forces in the west. "Our friends, the Italians, will continue to nurture the new growing Afghanistan," said Evans, after more than a month of transitioning with the Italian civil affairs team in Herat. The U.S. forces will move to other regions of the country to create new PRTs and continue reconstruction efforts elsewhere. Meanwhile, Italian forces will continue reconstruction and humanitarian efforts in Herat and outlying provinces.
|Video footage of airstrike on a tank, used during DoD news briefing of November 7, 2001
|Click on the small image to view the video|
|Footage showing a direct hit on a tank near the city of Herat|
|Video footage of airstrike on a Taliban tank, used during DoD news briefing of October 30, 2001
|Click on the small image to view the video|
|Footage showing Oct. 29, 2001, close-up of a Taliban tank caught in the open, northwest of Herat, and being hit|
|Pre- and post-strikes aerials of a company of Taliban tanks, used during DoD news briefing of October 25, 2001
|Click on the small image to view a larger version|
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