The news from Afghanistan you haven't read
The biggest single reconstruction project in Afghanistan's Kandahar province, where Canadian troops are stationed, was completed one week ago Tuesday---to the total silence of Canada's mainstream media.
It cost Canada $500,000 and three soldiers killed.The major newspapers and television newscasts, which never pass up an opportunity to showcase some critic of Canada's mission to Afghanistan, didn't think it was newsworthy.
The project is a two-lane road, less than 3 miles long (4.5 km), which connects the farming district of Panjwai district to Highway One, the ring road that links Afghanistan's major cities.
It means that farmers can now bring their produce to bigger markets in Kabul to the east, Herat to the west, and even to Iran. Since the Kandahar-Kabul section of the highway was opened, travel time has been cut from two days to five hours. Panjwai farmers can now finally tap into that road to prosperity.
The Kandahar road project was conceived in war. It was carved out of the farmers' fields last fall during the Canadian-led Operation Medusa which defeated the Taliban forces in the Panjwai district and removed the threat of encirclement from Kandahar City. When the fighting stopped, the reconstruction began, just as Canadian mission to Afghanistan is designed to work.
The path through the fields, which was cleared as a combat corridor, was surveyed and shaped into a road by Canadian combat engineers. Canadians built about a mile of the road and provided the security for the engineers and civilian contractors who completed it. The road is paved to make it hard for insurgents to plant mines. The 23rd Field Engineer Squadron dug irrigation ditches and installed culverts to prevent floods from closing the road.
Germany built the rest of the road, which was code-named Route Summit during construction. The U.S. will build a bridge over the Arghandab River as an extension of the project. The Germans spent $1.3 million (1 million euros) on the road but refused to provide troops for security. The dirty work was left to Canada.
Even before the first construction crews arrived, three Canadian soliders died. Private Josh Klukie was killed Sept. 29, 2006, when he stepped on a mine while on a patrol along Route Summit.
Four days later, two soldiers providing security for a road-building crew were killed. Corporal Robert Mitchell and Sergeant Craig Gillam were killed and fie others wounded in a mortar ambush by Talilban insurgents.
For the past three months as construction went ahead, Route Summit was the front line in the battle for Kandahar province. The German contractor handling the roadwork met with Taliban leaders in Kabul in November to convince them to leave the Germans alone.
Hans-Hermann Dube, regional director of the Germany construction company, proclaimed last week that the road was built "without any interference from insurgents."
This would come as news to the drivers of the gravel trucks that were targetted by IED's throughout the project. And to Canadian Pte. Frederic Couture of the 2nd Van Doos, who was seriously injured after stepping on a landmine while on a foot patrol on Route Summit.
The tanks sent to bolster Canada's forces in Kandahar were deployed with the battle group protecting Route Summit. Brigadier General A.J. Howard told a Senate committee in December that "the soldiers in the battle group are attacked each and every day by the Taliban. They are attacking them with indirect fire, mortar rounds, small arms fire, and the like." In January, Canadian troops stationed along Route Summit fought a three-hour firefight with Taliban insurgents.
It's nice to see the Germans, who refuse to fight, had such an easy time of it.