NEWS | June 29, 2010

Small projects reap large gains in Helmand

By Cpl. Ned Johnson , ISAF Joint Command


Major Anthony Aragon talks to a local contractor about a canal project during a patrol, June 18. The contractor said the project is going well and may finish early.

KABUL, Afghanistan (June 28, 2010) — Afghans, with ISAF forces support, are planning small projects that will improve the residents’ quality of life in Musa Qal’eh district of Helmand Province.

One of these projects to be done is the completion of much-needed repairs to the Yatimchay Road; paved roads will aid in the safer travels of both local residents and ISAF troops.

“It will help limit improvised explosive devices,” said Maj. Anthony Aragon, Marines civil affairs team leader. “This road will also allow [residents] to travel to Musa Qal’eh easier so they can sell their goods at the bazaar.”

Other projects, called micro-grants, are similar to small-business loans given to Afghans who own a business they would like to expand.

“These businessmen are excited to look at a better future,” Aragon said. “We just give them a little money and guidance and their entrepreneurial spirit does the rest.”

“We tie everything back to the Afghan government,” he added “We want the people to know that their government and local governor care about them.”

Small projects in rural areas of Afghanistan are just as important as the larger projects in major cities.

Even though projects are done solely to benefit the Afghans, there are tactical benefits as well.

“Once the people realize we are here to help them, they want the projects to continue,” said Cpl. Cameron Brainard, Marines civil affairs team member. “The best way to do that is to keep the Taliban out.”

“We are seeing the positive change here,” Aragon said. “They see us as a positive [partner] and take ownership of what they have.”

Afghan contractors and workers finished recent projects funded by ISAF ahead of schedule; small and large-scale projects will continue throughout Helmand Province in the future.