A logistical game changer
101st Sustainment Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (AA) Public Affairs
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Peter Mayes
BALKH PROVINCE, Afghanistan – An ambitious railroad project could see an increase in cargo supply movements and potentially create strong economic development and stability for the northern Afghanistan community.
The 101st Sustainment Brigade Commander Col. Michael Peterman and members of his staff spent several days visiting with key government officials in the Hairaton district to discuss plans to re-establish a distribution network in the north from Europe.
Most of the ground freight in that region comes through Pakistan.
“To say that it’s problematic is an understatement,” Peterman said. “For all the interruptions, attacks, theft, corruption …it has a negative effect on combat power. It can be a game-changer logistically if we get it right.”
The Hairaton Gate crossing is the only border crossing point with a rail line, according to Peterman. The Lifeliner’s role in the project would be to tie the infrastructure in northern Afghanistan to that network, he said.
The brigade sent a team to Hairaton Gate to help build container yards for the project. Peterman referred to Gen. David Petraeus’ initiative on helping get the Northern Distribution Network – a network of trains, ports and airplanes coming directly from Central Europe into Afghanistan- run efficiently.
It would also mean the brigade would coach, mentor and teach Afghan commerce, business and military leaders on how to conduct cross-border logistics in Hairaton, he said.
“The truth is, that freight is going to come. We have to figure out how to educate the Afghans to make sure it moves efficiently down to rest of the battle space. We’ll be critical to have in terms of coaching and monitoring, along with our Afghan partners,” Peterman said.
The commander said while the focus in Regional Command East has been counterinsurgency and security (with the intent to gain a space for economics to grow), the northern region has a strong governor and security.
“We have an opportunity, with that rail line and commercial trucking, to move that portion of the country forward economically and also reinforce governance for tens of millions of dollars that’s going to come across that port in the next year that’s going to go directly to Afghan taxpayers,” he said.
Peterman said he has spent time with the Hairaton District Gov. Atta and other key officials trying to understand, “Afghanistan’s human terrain.”
“We had a great dialogue with Gov. Atta, as well as daily meetings with the port authority … to let him know what this means to him economically. He’s a very smart man, and he understands developmentally what this means to his country,” he said.
Peterman said conversations with the district sub-governor raised concerns about the negative impact the projects would have on the community, such as children being struck by trucks
“Those concerns are no different than a small town in America that’s right next to a rail hub, if you can picture it,” he said. “If we put Afghans to work, it will have less negative effects on his community,” he said.
Peterman said engagements by USAID, the European Union and others are also coming into play regarding Afghanistan’s economic future.
He also said the project fits in with President Obama’s intent of having combat troops leave Afghanistan by 2014.
“The trains are going to have to get that combat power out some way,” he said.
Source: DVIDS, 2011-01-11