Housing an Army: Creating the Infrastructure for the Afghan National Army

Article excerpt

It is often said that "an army marches on its stomach," and, for long-term sustainment, an army needs protected, functional infrastructure. Following the fall of the Taliban in 2001, and faced with establishing a reformed Afghan National Army (ANA) to secure and stabilize the country, U.S. forces turned to the Afghanistan Engineer District (AED), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to design and construct permanent facilities as power projection platforms for the ANA.

Like much in this war-torn country, the infrastructure available for the ANA was either destroyed in combat or in such a state of disrepair that it was essentially useless. Frequently mined and littered with unexploded ordnance, the hodge-podge mix of Warsaw Pact and local buildings at former Afghan military installations were poorly constructed and lacked anything resembling modern utilities. In short, the ANA needed a revitalized, nationwide infrastructure to serve as training bases and power projection platforms.

Into this breach stepped AED. Headquartered in Kabul, the District was established in March 2004 to provide engineering and construction management support for U.S. and coalition forces throughout the Central Asian States, as well as reconstruction support to organizations such as the U.S. Agency for International Development. The District is currently executing a wide range of projects from construction for U.S. forces at Kandahar and Bagram, to police stations for the Afghan National Police, to infrastructure development projects such as a 100MW gas-fired power plant in Shiberghan. With more than 150 military and civilian employees, AED has offices across the region. The Corps of Engineer presence in Afghanistan is in line with a long tradition of the Corps supporting forward into a theater of operations, a tradition that includes work in Europe, Korea, Vietnam and, more recently, Iraq.

In order to support an end state organization of thousands of soldiers organized into multiple corps and brigades, AED, in close coordination with the Office of Military Cooperation-Afghanistan and its successor, the Office of Security Cooperation-Afghanistan, envisioned numerous sites dispersed across the country. These include regional corps commands, brigade sites, and, supporting in processing, entry-level training, administrative, logistical and medical facilities. In some cases, these facilities were built in proximity to former military bases, but in other cases they are completely new sites that reflect a desire to project ANA combat power across the country.

Each of the primary base sites is a self-supporting, independent facility that includes the full range of barracks, headquarters and administration buildings, dining facilities and maintenance facilities. Normally very simple yet sturdy in construction, the living areas also include concessions to cultural norms, including orientation of toilet facilities facing northsouth, not toward or away from Mecca, and foot ablution stations in the latrine areas. In the large, open dining facilities, the cooking areas are equipped with large wood burning stoves that can support the five-gallon or larger pots with which the Afghans cook.

Equipped with modern power plants for electric power and waste water treatment facilities for sewage, the sites also include their own water supply in the form of wells that were drilled in the facilities or as close to the facilities as possible. In addition, each camp has either a medical clinic or a hospital to care for the soldiers, their families (who live nearby) and the local civilian population on an emergency basis.

Since anti-coalition forces are still seen as a threat, force protection of each site is a major concern. …