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December 06, 2008

Some Oddities in Road Construction in Nuristan

According to a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to Congress the Defense Department awarded a contract for road construction in Afghanistan's Nuristan province back in 2004:

Table 1: USAID and Defense's Afghan Road Reconstruction Awards:
Year: 2004;
Project name--instrument used: CERP-funded road projects--Contracts;
Implementer: USACE or local contractors;
Project description: Provincial and rural roads, including Nangarej- Mandol and Gulum Khan.

Source: GAO analysis of USAID and Defense data.

(CERP is a Commander's Emergency Response Program under which a local U.S. commander spends money on urgent issues. USACE is the US Army Corps of Engineers.)

Still two years later, little seemed to have happened.

In 2006 a 'partnership agreement' was reached over the road project between Nangarej and Mandol. The army reported:

KABUL, Afghanistan - A partnership agreement was reached June 10 on the Nuristan Commander's Emergency Response Program's road projects at the district's headquarters here.

Attending the signing ceremony were Nuristan Governor Tamim Nuristani, Dr. Sayed Noorullah Jalili, chief executive of AMERIFA Construction Company and Col. Christopher J. Toomey, commander of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Afghanistan Engineer District/director of engineering for the Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan.

According to the partnership document, the three leaders agreed to "promote a climate of mutual respect, honest and open communication." The document also noted that the Coalition, contractor and government would be committed to proactive problem resolution in order to execute safe and timely construction in support of the infrastructure development of Nuristan on the Nangarej to Mandol and the Chapa Dara to Titan Dara CERP Road Projects.

Why did it take two years from a 'emergency fund' contract award to some actual agreement over building the road? We do not know. Maybe the the 'partnership document' was needed to clear away some stumbling blocks for the prospective road between Nangarej and Mandol.

According to Amerifa, the Afghan company mentioned above, got contracts for road-building for $17 million in 2006 and $6.8 million in 2007. Wages there are $3-$5 per day, so that's a lot of dough. In November 2007, in an effort to "promote a climate of mutual respect, honest and open communication," the U.S. bombed a worker-camp of Amerifa in Nuristan. At least 14 were killed. 

However, despite all these efforts the road-building that was awarded through an 'emergency response program' in 2004 is now back to its start.

A fresh solicitation for the Nangarej to Mandol road in Nuristan province was posted today on

The U.S. Army corps of engineers, Afghanistan Engineer District intends to issue a Request fro Proposal (RFP) to award Firm Fixed Price contract to design and construct approximately 60 km of 6 m wide gravel road with 1.5 m gravel shoulder. The project is from Nangarej (70.33266E 35.05905N) to Mandal (70.101976E 35.165549N) in the Nuristan Province of Afghanistan.

Google Earth clip with those coordinates:

(the gray line is a province boarder, not the road)

So according to GAO a contract was awarded in 2004. In 2006 the road was not yet build but some agreement was found. Today the Army Corps of Engineer asks for a proposal on how to build the very same road (Mandal and Mandol are used interchangeably in various sources so it is very likely the same place).

With that speed of action the road will never be build.

That may well be because that road does not make any sense. Professor David Katz, an anthropologist who worked for the State Department and has been in Nuristan in a reconstruction project team, opines  in a private lecture (video - start at 9:00min, helpful map (pdf)) that some of the plans for roads in Nuristan are crazy. These do not run along the natural river lines but try to connect independent areas (with quite different tribes and languages) over very rough mountains. Some of these roads are supposed to go over 15,000 feet high passes that are not accessible at all most of the year and there is "not a penny" to do maintenance on these roads once they are build.

Google Earth shows the coordinates given for Nangarej at 4,000 feet elevation, the coordinates for Mandal at some 10,000 feet. The distance as the crow flies is 25 kilometers. The recent solicitation is for 60 kilometers total road length. With that difference in elevation and the rough terrain, I find it unlikely that the project is doable as imagined.

Nuristanis will assess the speed of progress on such 'emergency' projects on their land. They will know that the crazy high-pass roads will immediately fall apart if they ever get build at all.

Why should they support the foreign people who are responsible for this? Indeed why should they tolerate their presence at all?

Posted by b on December 6, 2008 at 20:18 UTC | Permalink


Anybody bidding on an FFP contract in that environment would take the worst-case budget and double it and double it again then add a 100% contingency etc., etc., etc., so the high cost doesn't surprise me. Bet it doesn't matter if it's doable - some warlord needs to be paid off. Though it's a nice illustration of US ineptitude, nothing about this is remarkable - what aspect of it piques your interest? 'US pisses money away?' That's just like 'Dog bites man.'

Posted by: ...---... | Dec 6 2008 23:04 utc | 1

i was thinking more along the lines of 'why do they want a road there??'

maybe it is just a matter of some warlord needs to be paid off.

it never stops. never.

Posted by: annie | Dec 6 2008 23:51 utc | 2

road to nowhere

Posted by: Sky News | Dec 6 2008 23:57 utc | 3


25 minutes of heavy rain along an area the US Army was supposed to have "reconstructed" before they left in 2007.

US Army staff take a short break from their arduous contract administration in Kabul.

Won't you see your way clear to give just $50 to prevent widespread famine this winter in Afghanistan?

Khalid Hadi Haidery
USA Phone # +1 518 366 2728
AFG Phone # +93 707 414549


Posted by: Bento Pachinko | Dec 7 2008 0:54 utc | 4

Eid Mubarak!

Posted by: Shah Loam | Dec 7 2008 3:23 utc | 5

Some warlord needs to be paid off Why don't you just say what you really mean? These sub human unwhites will do anything for a few US dollars.
When in fact the most liikely scenario the peeps being paid off the most will come from inside the washington beltway, then a bit more to a delaware registered corporation which launders it and pays off lotsa lawyers in delaware and new york and then maybe just maybe some battler responsbile for a clan of several hundreds of souls in Afghanistan has been persuaded to sign a piece of paper saying he wants a road, but the idea will have come outta washington and most of the money will stay in amerika. That's not even considering the highly likely possibility that the cover mechanism is completely unknown to the clan leader.

No he has been told the payment is the compensation for 87 humans murdered 'by accident' that the Mayor of Kabul promised after some idiot full of taco bell poison lost it in his texas bunker and bombed the wedding party of the clan leader's son, instead of the alleged 'terrorist headquarters' a hundred clicks to the east. The confusion arose because the co-ordinates were misheard. Given as they were in the last dying breath of some afghani who had been 'over-waterboarded' and he was trying to describe a place where he thought there would be no one.

But lets not let the facts get in the way of calling some poor fuck who devotes his life to keeping several hundred humans fed in the part of the world with the lowest per capita income. We hide this by calling the poor fuck who needs a medal, not approbation - a warlord.

Take your ethnocentric claptrap elsewhere you gutless anonymous creep. You live in a cess pool of murderers and thieves, and almost certainly make a total ass of yourself keeping your little nuclear family going - if you still have one that is. You have no conception at all of the lives led by those heroes who you disparage as 'warlords' or terrorist or whatever other appellation you've been told to attach to these men of honour by the incessant bullshit chatter of the talking heads that dominate your life from the vidtube in your 'living' room.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Dec 7 2008 7:41 utc | 6

Whew! And I thought I was being tough...

Small picadillo: approbation is what he (said tribal leader/ Orwellian "warlord") does need. You are searching for another word here -- perhaps admonition, or something like that.

Posted by: Malooga | Dec 7 2008 8:07 utc | 7

Does it happen that warlords in Afghanistan are bried? Based on similar conflicts, I would say that is probably the case.

Are most money in these construction/reconstruction projects skimmed off by the friends of the US admin? Definetely so.

Those two are not in contradiction, but since most of the money goes to US war-profiteers, that would probably be where you should look as to reasons for this particular road.

Posted by: a swedish kind of death | Dec 7 2008 11:46 utc | 8

Does it happen that warlords in Afghanistan are bried?

The German government bribe the serial murderer and warlord Dostum up in north Afghanistan with a 'stipend' of €10,000 per month.

Posted by: b | Dec 7 2008 12:54 utc | 9

Why do we call their leaders "warlords" and not "tribal elders," especially when our leaders are the planets biggest inciters of death and violence, yet they are called, "Mr. Prime Minister" or "Madame Ambassador" or "Mr. President," or some such crap?

Hmmm... He gets 10K/month, plus all the brie he can eat? Tasty... I wonder if the bread is any good over there?

Posted by: Malooga | Dec 7 2008 14:20 utc | 10

I would love to think that the US of A is so clever as to disguise reparations as a construction project. Yeah, right. I would also love to think that elders get a chance to skim some of the construction money, but I strongly suspect that the multicultural individuals with the biggest guns, who I should perhaps henceforth term 'community-empowerment lords,' will be doing the skimming.

And it's so nice to know that someone understands! The only thing you left out is that Jesus loves me and agrees with everything I do.

Posted by: ...---... | Dec 7 2008 15:37 utc | 11

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