The long road ahead (AFGHANISTAN)


Landmines, unexploded bombs and artillery shells that litter the ground after 30 years of war must be carefully cleared from routes before work can begin.


(06.06.2006)

KABUL -- Working in one of the world's most deadly landscapes, Canadian Stephen Appleton is trying to bring hope to people in rural Afghanistan one torturous kilometre at a time.

Appleton is in charge of a United Nations plan to transform 900 km of goat tracks and chewed up dirt roads into blacktopped routes that will link remote communities to the country's main highway.

While progress is being made, more than 200 Afghan and international workers have been killed on the job since the project began in 2004, including a security chief beheaded by the Taliban.

BETTER LIVES
To Appleton, an engineer and retired Canadian Forces army colonel, the roads are paving the way toward a stronger, more stable economy and better lives for Afghanistan's poorest people.

"Roads are leading the reconstruction effort. We are the enablers. We are setting the conditions for success or not in this country," the affable Calgarian said yesterday.

"What can people do now that they can go to school or that a child can be born and his mother will live because they can get to the hospital in an hour instead of three days?"

The challenges of the road building project are daunting.

Removing tonnes of rubble from the steep grades of the mountainous Panjshir Valley is as difficult as anything faced by the men who toiled on the Rogers Pass when Canada's national railway was being built in the 19th century.

Landmines, unexploded bombs and artillery shells that litter the ground after 30 years of war must be carefully cleared from routes before work can begin.

Project managers must negotiate with tribal leaders, warlords and corrupt government officials.
In some areas in the south where the Taliban insurgency is most active, private contractors who build the roads under UN supervision can't tell friend from foe.
"The ministry of interior police that we use to secure ourselves in the day become the Taliban at night," Appleton said.

"We don't know who all the bad guys are, but they have penetrated everything from the government infrastructure to our own organizations who we deal with in the daytime in terms of business."



Von: 07.06.2006, By CP, http://torontosun.com/News/Canada/2006/06/07/1618382-sun.html

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