July 28, 2015 —
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, July 28, 2015 - As the
number of international forces who are here as part of the NATO mission draws
down, so does the need for bases and facilities throughout the country, meaning
a number of these assets will be made available for the government of
Afghanistan, as well as private companies and investors.
The NATO mission in Afghanistan currently has about 13,000
troops from about 40 countries. At its
height the mission had about 130,000 troops.
To ensure facilities are used to boost the economic capacity
of Afghanistan, a group of advisers from Combined Security Transition
Command-Afghanistan, or CSTC-A, and the U.S. Department of Commerce are working
collaboratively with Afghan provincial and national leaders to assist in
developing an effective transition plan.
“The military or the government does not need all of these
assets, so we, as the part of the Commerce Department, in conjunction with
CSTC-A, have been asked to do commercial assessments of key bases in
Afghanistan to determine their commercial viability to attract both local and international
investors,” said Walter Koenig, the commercial service officer for the
Afghanistan Investment and Reconstruction Task Force.
The assets on each base vary from location to location and
can be used by a variety of different entities, from agriculture to mechanical
companies to military-specific training facilities.
“The benefits are the private sector gets the much needed
infrastructure at a very low initial cost, all of these assets are able to be
retained and used to enable further investment,” said Koenig.
The transition of such large facilities has three pillars:
military, commercial and political, both on the coalition and Afghan sides.
Representatives from each pillar in Afghanistan are collaborating with
coalition military and Commerce Department representatives.
“I view it as a team effort in order to make this happen,”
said Koenig. “We’re involved very much in the commercial leg and CSTC-A’s
involved with the military side, and we’re both assisting with the political,
so it’s a very collaborative and team-oriented process. From the Department of
Commerce standpoint, we’re willing to invest personnel time and resources to
facilitate, to advise and to promote the opportunities, particularly in the
On the military side, CSTC-A engineers are working with
their Afghan partners to determine what assets are available and might be of
use to the military or potential commercial companies.
“Our role as the military is to re-shape and re-size
Kandahar Airfield in its entirety to meet the needs so the lads can actually
sell it as a going asset,” said Australian Maj. Damian Maher, the Kandahar
Airfield de-scope engineer. “We’re flattening unstable buildings. We’re
re-designing the camp so we can hand it off to the Government of Afghanistan as
a better product. We’re going to hand over more than 1,000 buildings to (the
Afghan government) that have air conditioning, are climate controlled, positive
pressure buildings that they can used for economic development.”
The advisers, in conjunction with provincial government
leaders are looking at the airfield here as well as those at Mazar-e Sharif and
Herat to assess their commercial viability. The initial survey was completed at
Kandahar Airfield in May, and in June the Resolute Support and Department of
Commerce advisers hosted a tour of various facilities here for provincial
scholars to make assessments of the base.
In addition to the coalition advisers, the group consisted
of approximately 10 local scholars, who will make up the Kandahar Airfield
Commission. The commission, which is still in its startup stage, will oversee
the development within the base and manage which companies will be able to use
During the tour, they visited two cold storage warehouses, a
waste water treatment facility and large storage warehouses, among other
locations that could be of use to the local government.
“This is good because we can see what capacity is available
here and the type of equipment,” said Mohammed Nasim Sohail, who is part of the
faculty at Kandahar University. “We can look at how we can integrate them into
different organizations and how we can prepare a very good development plan to
run this base, so I’m grateful we are here today.”
These scholars, who are part of the transition commission,
plan to put together a plan for the use of the various facilities on the base
and present the plan to the provincial governor. There are a variety of
commercial entity opportunities, particularly in an agricultural center such as
Kandahar. The use of the cold storage facilities, for example, has the
potential to even out year-round market prices for fresh produce and further
stabilize the economy.
“This has to be an Afghan led effort, Koenig said. “We’re
here to facilitate, to help and to promote, but this has got to be and will be
ultimately Afghan led, Afghan managed and Afghan implemented. A generic office
building will support a number of businesses, but each base a set of positive
commercial attributes and they’re not all the same. Kandahar is very
interesting because it is an agricultural zone, it is a potential logistics
hub, it is a potential food processing hub, a potential light manufacturing
hub, there’s a lot of different businesses that could find themselves in here
Maher, the engineer, said, “We’re not telling (the Afghans)
‘this is what it’s for,’ we’re saying, ‘this is what we’ve got, this is our
tablet of assets, what you do with it is up to you. What we’re doing is
providing you the foundation.’”
If done correctly, and with the necessary
foresight and overhead management, these facilities could provide the
foundation Afghanistan needs to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s vision of
becoming a major economic hub for central Asia in the next 20 years.