What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Re: Construction

I've devoted much of my research energies to studying affairs in Uruzgan this year, and, revolutionising myself somewhat, I did so writing a long series of blogposts on what's been going on there. So, fittingly, for a post so near the end of the year, I'll write here some brief commentary on developments in Uruzgan I'd like to note in this on-line research diary of sorts.
The Dutch government has recently awarded a 34 million euro contract to a German company, the GTZ (Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit) for the construction of a road between Tarin Kowt and Chora. That idea is daring enough. It is necessarily an audacious venture to build a road through the Baluchi Pass which could see a significant amount of guerrilla traffic the next season. And it is made all the more so by such construction always being a delicate matter in lands where ancient irrigation systems, resting on complex water-sharing arrangements, can be disrupted by the works. It can generate resentment and conflict - conflict with locals and conflict between locals alike. But since the Dutch seem to have done much math on tribal affairs, and given that they have one of the best tribal advisors around, this blogpost of mine is not to come as needed warning for them. I'm just noting this since I'm aware that in Kandahar all these challenges used to be an important issue in the case of Route Summit (a road Canadian Forces had had built from Highway One to Panjwai district).
Pic: CF soldier around Route Summit somewhere
The German firm GTZ isn't entirely unexperienced in constructing roads in this sort of environment, either. In this article they were reported to have made necessary side deals to be able to get on with building Route Summit, in the construction of which they were also involved.
" CanWest News Service has learned a German-held company now co-ordinating construction has tried to appease the insurgents. A regional director for GTZ International Services Asia met in Kabul with a pair of high-ranking Taliban leaders two weeks ago.
"We spent at least five hours together," Hans-H. Dube said, in an interview with CanWest. "We discussed the purpose of that road. They are afraid that Germans are going to construct a road for military forces, and they said that in such a case they will definitely attack the construction site and attack our workers."
Dube says he tried to convince Taliban leaders the road "is a gift from the German government to the people of Panjwaii."
The Taliban seemed impressed, he said, and they got back to him a few days later.
"They mentioned they have 47 commanders in the areas and 42 have agreed not to attack," said Dube. "Five are left but they said they'll work on them, so hopefully they will not harm any of our workers." "
But really, the Taliban is not the only factor, especially if the ANA manages to keep the Baluchi Pass more outside the insurgents' influence zone. Beside the water-sharing issue, the route may run across farmers' fields who then need to be compensated. With the state of Afghan agriculture in the south, some farmers may even actually want the road to run through their fields. Better to be compensated than producing without a functioning market to produce for.
So that will be some challenge for the next year, but anyway, it's a logical step to take in order to secure Chora at the northeastern end of the Baluchi Pass better, and to preserve more influence in the pass itself.
With the year coming to an end, I'm thinking of how Australian special forces are not going home this winter season. They are there in Uruzgan to stay this time. No winter/Aussie summer break scheduled this year. Marks some changes, doesn't it?

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