December 14th, 2007 13:40 EST
US Army 'Construction Surge' in Afghanistan
KABUL (AFP) - A US army "construction surge" in Afghanistan next year worth nearly two-billion dollars will go mainly on infrastructure for the growing army and police, the chief of engineers said Thursday.
The amount planned for next year is up on the 2.8-billion dollars spent between 2003 and 2007 by the US Army Corps of Engineers.
About 75 percent of next year's allocation would go towards building facilities for the Afghan security forces on which the country depends, the head of the corps, Lieutenant General Robert L. Van Antwerp, told reporters.
The 228 US army engineers in Afghanistan were also building roads and surveying dams for use to provide power, irrigation and drinking water, he said after a short visit to Afghanistan.
"In 2008 the corps of engineers is planning a construction surge through Afghanistan costing nearly two-billion dollars," a statement on his visit said.
The corps, which in Afghanistan is 70 percent civilian, has already built nine brigade bases for the Afghan National Army that include barracks, dining facilities, power supplies and sewage treatment facilities.
It also built a 37-million-dollar bridge between Tajikistan and Afghanistan that was opened in August.
The aim is "getting the country on its feet," Van Antwerp said. "We have got a country that has been at war for 30 years and that has taken its toll."
The growth of the Afghan army and police was particularly important.
"If people aren't afraid to go to market, if they aren't afraid to have a bazaar, then you start to get the freedom that enables people to be entrepreneurs," he said.
The United States led the invasion that toppled the Taliban government in late 2001 weeks after the 9/11 attacks by Al-Qaeda, which then had training camps in Afghanistan.
It is the country's main supporter as it battles a Taliban-led insurgency that has been its deadliest this year.
Washington in January announced 10.6-billion dollars in aid over the next two years, of which 8.6-billion dollars was for training and equipping Afghan security forces and two billion for reconstruction.
SOURCE: ANC NEWS