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

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Cobblestone v. asphalt, engineers v. insurgents

The Year in Afghanistan blog has some new dispatches from Eric, the aid worker whose blog I linked to more than a year ago now and is there in Uruzgan since more than a year now (with a few interruptions). He has some interesting bits of information for those involved in the discussion about roads, including Josh Foust who has devoted the most attention to this subject in a series of well-written posts over at Registan, the latest of those being this one.
In this post, currently Eric's latest blog, Eric tells about cobblestone roads which are a low-budget and suitable solution, nevertheless not all locals like it because they regard an asphalt-paved road as a sign of status and therefore claim that that's what they should have more of in Tarin Kowt as well, even if kilometres more of cobblestone roads could be built instead of those. Old dilemmas of local ownership v. logistical rationality, one could say - albeit they tend to come to the fore the most when you provide the means to the "local owners."
I have to steal two pictures from over there, to have some Tarin Kowt atmosphere take root here, too.
Then there is this other interesting post from Eric. It's a shorter post and for a proper excerpt I'm hard put not to just paste it here in its entirety, but I'll try for the sake of decency:
"There is a regional project to build several hundred miles of roads in many provinces, and a few of these roads will be in Uruzgan. A group of engineers went to the town of Chora, about 20 miles north of Tirin Kot, to see how far they could survey. The people of Chora were very excited to see a road project starting a survey there. They don't see much in the way of road work. It's public knowledge that as you head farther north from here, the problems with opposition forces become more acute - so after 15 miles or so going north, the villagers told the engineers that this would really not be a good time to go any farther. So when will be a good time?"
This is something that left me with some incomprehension. I have written of the planned road between Chora and Tarin Kowt before. It's of utmost strategic importance. Dutch, Australian and Afghan forces could project power into the Baluchi Pass more quickly using it, and since a number of bases or outposts are being built in the area, territory there could be held in a more stable way.
Why does a group of engineers have to find out when they can do some survey there on their own?


ubiwar said...

You might be interested in this new article in the Journal of Cultural Economy: 'Otherwise Engaged': Culture, deviance and the quest for connectivity through road construction.

Péter MARTON said...

Thanks, I've just downloaded it! I wish I could start reading it rightaway.