Road Construction in Afghanistan
Books on Afghanistan
In 2001 when the United States invaded Afghanistan there was only rudimentary road networks and hardly any paved roads. At the time it is estimated that there were 50 miles of paved roads. Things have changed quite a bit during the American occupation of Afghanistan.
Ring Road - Highway 1. The biggest road project begun in Afghanistan was the hard-surfacing of the Ring Road - specifically the stretch that runs from Kabul to Kandahar. 3. Check out a video about the Ring Road by GroundTruth Project at this link: www.foreverstan.com.
Strategic Provincial Roads Program. The SPR continues USAID's efforts to reconstruct vital roads in regions considered critical to Afghanistan's development and counterinsurgency objectives. The $269 million program took three years to rehabilitate multiple existing roads in eastern and southern Afghanistan. 1. USAID is the sponsoring agency for the SPR. 2.
Massive Road Building Projects - Now Deteriorating. Over the past decade there have been numerous road projects completed - some estimates say 10,000 miles; however, the projects were marred with delays, corruption, and poor workmanship. This is partially because there was a distinct lack of oversight by many of the international organizations (to include USAID). Many of these roads that have been built have deteriorated due to poor construction, heavy use, Taliban planting of IEDs, no little to no upkeep and maintenace.
Salang Tunnel. One of the most needed road construciton projects is the repair of the mountain tunnel that goes through the Hindu Kush mountains. This 1.6 mile long tunnel, built by the Soviets in the 1960s, will cost millions of dollars to repair. 4.
IEDs. The planting of improvised explosive devices or IEDs is one of the favorite tactics of the Tabilan. It is a leave and forget weapon that provides security for the IED emplacing cell and has terrible results. In addition to the numerous casualties the IEDs cause large craters in the road that need repair.
Afghan Ministry of Public Works. This ministry is partially responsible for the upkeep on the roads but it has proved to be ineffective in doing any maintenance. The money that the international community has provided for road maintenance has managed to "go south". Corruption has been the most devastating factor in hindering proper road maintenance. Other factors that contribute to poor maintenance of Afghan roads are lack of training, poor organization, lack of equipment, and the deteriorating security situation.
U.S. Road Building in Afghanistan in 1960s. The U.S. has a long history of building roads in Afghanistan. In the 1960s the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers oversaw a program to moderize Afghanistan's primitive system of roads. Read more at this USACE link.
USAID Funding of Afghan Roads. Since 2002 USAID has invested over $2 billion in Afghanistan's road network by building or rehabilitating over 2,000 kilometers of roads. 5.
Gardez-Khost Highway. USAID has been proudly presenting the completion of the highway that runs from Gardez to Khost as a crowing achievement. While the road is completed making traffic between the two cities quicker it isn't necessaryily safer. In addition, the construction of the road took years, cost millions, and was rife with incompetence and corruption. Read more in USAID's factsheet account of the building and completion of the Gardez-Khost highway (NH08).
Road Sector Sustainability Program (RSSP). This USAID-funded project is designed to help the Ministry of Public Works create three new agencies - a "Road Authority", a "Road Fund", and a "Transportation Insitute". This three-year program is funded by over $21 milliion.
Afghanistan Infrastructure and Rehabilitation Program (IRP). This USAID
website provides an overview of Afghan infrastructure projects (roads),
news, tenders, resources, photos, and videos.
SIGAR, Afghanistan's Road Infrastructure: Sustainment Challenges and
Lack of Repairs Put U.S. Investment at Risk, Special Inspector
General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, SIGAR 17-11 Audit, October 2016.
Suroush, Qayoom. Going in Circles: The never-ending story of
Afghanistan's unfinished Ring Road, Afghanistan Analysts Network
(AAN), January 16, 2015.
SIGAR, Letter from SIGAR to USAID on Road Construction, Special
Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, June 6, 2014.
Amiri, Mohammad Abid. Road Reconstruction in Post-Conflict Afghanistan: A
Cure or a Curse, International Affairs Review, Volume
XXI, Number 2, Spring 2013.
GAO, Afghanistan: U.S.- and Internationally-Funded Roads,
GAO-09-626SP, April 2009.
Rolfe, Zachary. Roads in Afghanistan and their Relation to Nationalisn
in the Country, History 372 Final Paper, James Madison University.
The Louis Berger Group, Inc.
October 18, 2021. "Afghanistan: Taliban road construction projects stall without foreign funding", by Franz J. Marty, Deutsche Welle.
March 25, 2015. "The Surprisingly Mundane Key to Afghan Stability: Roads". By Saager Enjeti, The Diplomat, March 25, 2015. An examination of the failure to complete the Gardez-Khost road; much of the $320 million has fallen into the hands of tribal leaders with ties to the Taliban. The cost is said to be $5 million per mile.
December 1, 2014. "Anger Over Long-Delayed Afghan Highway". Institute for War & Peace Reporting. Afghans unhappy that the Khost-Gardez road not completed.
October 7, 2014. "Ministry Hesitantly Hopes to Meet President's Ring Road Timeline". Tolo News. The Afghan Ministry of Public Works (MoPW) is hoping to complete the Ring Road if international donors provide the funds.
May 2, 2014. "In Afghanistan, no easy path to development". Devex.com. Article presents the successes and challenges of road building in Afghanistan.
February 2, 2014. "US-built roads in Afghanistan crumble for lack of care". Stars and Stripes. This news article cites the problems of maintaining the Afghan road network that cost some much time, energy, and money to build.
January 30, 2014. "After billions in U.S. investment, Afghan roads are falling apart". The Washington Post. The Afghan government is unable to maintain even a fraction of the roads and highways constructed since 2001.
April 30, 2013. "Low Construction Standards Cause Early Destruction of Roads". Tolo News. International standards not adhered to in construction of roads in Afghanistan.
February 21, 2013. "Kabul Major says road construction a top priority". ReliefWeb.
February 10, 2012. "Afghan road construction projects wander off course". Stars and Stripes. $270 million spent on a seven mile long road.
May 1, 2011. "Costly Afghanistan Road Project is Marred by Unsavory Alliances". The New York Times. The Gardez-Khost Highway is falling apart and remaines treacherous.
1. See "Strategic Provincial Roads in Southern and Eastern Afghanistan",
Internationsl Relief & Development (IRD).
2. For more on the USAID sponsorship of the Strategic Provincial Roads initiative click here.
3. For more information on the Afghanistan Ring Road (Highway 1) see Wikipedia's entry here.
4. For more info on the Salang Tunnel read "Bottomless Pit", The Wall Street Journal, October 2, 2014 at his link.
5. $2 billion figure provided by USAID for Afghan road network is taken from a USAID press release dated March 24, 2015.
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