Missiles drive US staff from dam that RM fought to save...

It took the Taleban only 14 cheap rockets to bring to a halt one of Afghanistan’s most prestigious reconstruction projects.

Hours after Royal Marines in Kajaki staged a dramatic mission to clear insurgents from positions north of a strategic dam, contractors responsible for its reconstruction were ordered to evacuate after the rockets were fired.

The 107mm missiles, launched from a location west of the dam, exploded harmlessly around the Marines’ base on Tuesday, a day after they returned from their mission. The clear signal of defiance from the Taleban caused little consternation among either the Marines or Afghan engineers working at the dam’s hydroelectric station near by.

However, two foreign contractors overseeing rebuilding, an American and an Australian, were evacuated on the first available helicopter. Until they return Kajaki’s hydroelectric reconstruction is stalled.

Officials from USAid, which is funding multimillion-pound projects in Kajaki, were keen yesterday to play down their decision to remove the contractors. “The two expats had gone in to assess the facilities in Kajaki and found that the air-con and plumbing was not working,” one official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “They came out to assess how to get those things fixed. To complicate matters, there was also a rocket attack which blew out windows from their compound.”

Royal Marine officers, whose men have been fighting the Taleban for weeks to push them back from the area of the dam, were clearly disappointed that the contractors were pulled out so hastily.

“Those rockets have a range of more than eight kilometres,” a commander said. “So if we clear the Taleban to that distance and next they use a heavy artillery piece, what then?” ...

...Hours before the rocket attack on Kajaki, Lieutenant-Colonel Matt Holmes, the commander of 42 Commando battle group, had spoken of his optimism for the future of work on the dam, the raison d’être for his Marines’ deployment to the area, but said that it was conditional on a degree of boldness from the participating groups.

“I’m expecting activity on the site to pick up over the next month or two,” he said. “It will provide huge job opportunities as well as the benefits of generated power. But the people involved have to make the leap of faith that we expect the Afghan people to make.”

There was clearly not much leap of faith from those who pulled out the two site managers from Kajaki. Although one missile had exploded near the men’s accommodation, a relatively luxurious two-storey house originally built for German engineers in the 1970s, it had caused no more damage than three broken windows and a perforated water pipe.

“They were embarrassed when they told me they were leaving,” said Sayeed Rasul, the chief Afghan engineer at the hydroelectric plant. “It was not their decision. None of my men stopped work though. We aren’t afraid of rockets.”
Just goes to show the differing viewpoints between the armed forces and the aid-agencies...

Great comment after the article from Andy Bearpark, London,

A perfect illustration of the need for a new "compact" between the military and the aid industry. Existing models are based on the theory that the military fight the war and then the post-conflict reconstruction workers move in to a benign environment. The reality is that "conflict reconstruction" is what is now needed. There are many individuals and companies who are willing to do this but it needs new thinking and new procedures.

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