Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of NATO and International Security Assistance Force troops in Afghanistan, plants a tree to celebrate the Afghan New Year in Kabul, Afghanistan, Mar. 6. Photo by U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Joshua Treadwell.
KABUL, Afghanistan (March 7, 2011) — Kabul Mayor Mohammad Yunus Noandesh, Minister of Education Ghulam Farooq Wardak, US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and Commander United States Forces-Afghanistan Gen. David H. Petraeus planted the first of 75,000 trees on March 6 at Wazri Akbar Khan Hill to begin a country-wide celebration of Farmer’s Day.
Prior to planting the trees Mayor Noandeshm, Minister Wardak, Ambassador Eikenberry and Gen. Petraeus spoke to a crowd of more than 100 people discussing the importance Afghan-US relations, Afghanistan’s environmental development and the future of the country’s youth.
“Along with the hundreds of thousands of trees that will be planted this spring, with US support and with the support of many other nations, the tree we plant today will help restore green growth to what was and will be again be a beautiful land,” said Gen. Petraeus. “This is just one of 75,000 trees that will be gifts of the American people to the people of Kabul and one of over 420,000 trees that will be gifts of the American people to the Afghan people during the Nowruz season throughout Afghanistan.”
According to Ambassador Eikenberry, the US Embassy agricultural department is currently working with the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture to develop a comprehensive forest conservation program. The tree planting ceremony was likened to the US’s long term commitment to Afghanistan during Eikenberry’s speech.
“As General Petraeus had said the symbolism here today is important as these trees are planted and over the years they take deeper roots, we take that as a great symbol in how we see the United States and Afghan relations developing in the years ahead they will take deeper roots,” said Eikenberry.
Gen. Petraeus also discussed about the Afghan school season, which begins March 22, and how knowledge is the key for Afghanistan’s future.
“Those [Afghan] children are like young tree saplings. Just as the sun nourishes the tree’s growth, the light of knowledge will nourish the minds of young Afghans,” said Gen. Petraeus. “Together the children and the trees will grow to become the future of this country and as always it is my sincere hope in that all of the members of ISAF, for the noble people of Afghanistan to have a future of enduring peace, stability and prosperity for all.”
USAID’S Kabul City Initiative paid for 60,000 trees of the 75,000 Afghan Pine trees. USFOR-A provided 15,000 trees through the use from Commander Emergency Response Program (CERP) funds. CERP allows senior U.S. military officials to utilize funds for “urgent” humanitarian relief and reconstruction” projects that include the development of Afghanistan’s infrastructure and environment.
Farmer’s Day, also known as Nowruz, is an ancient, annual Afghan festival which celebrates both the beginning of spring and the New Year. The observances usually last two weeks, culminating on the first day of the Afghan New Year, March 21, and corresponds to the first day of the Persian Calendar.
USFOR-A’s mission is to execute Title 10 and other National Support (NSE) functions for all US Forces assigned to the Afghanistan AOR. USFOR-A executes OPCON of all Detainee Operations, as well as TACON of CENTCOM directed activities not covered within the NATO mandate, and conducts direct liaison with the US Embassy and other US organizations operating in the AOR.