Article, Volume #40

Reconstructing Snapshots from Uruzgan

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On July 31th 2006, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) assumed command over the southern region of Afghanistan (RC-S). It signalled the beginning of a four-year mission by the Dutch armed forces, designated as lead-nation for Uruzgan; a province roughly one-third the size of the Netherlands.

After taking over the US base Ripley, renaming it Kamp Holland, the Dutch forces commenced with the daunting objectives set by the international community and Dutch government in particular to deliver reconstruction and development in this remote Afghan region. What did Task Force Uruzgan (TF-U) and the embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) encounter during their mission?

These exceptional photos were taken by personnel from Dutch Provincial Reconstruction Team 5 (PRT5) and the administering Mission Teams (MTs), each designated an area of responsibility; the cities of Tarin Kowt, Chora, Deh Rawood and the Westbank area. They provide us snapshots of the post-war reconstruction and the nature of nation-building in Afghanistan, displaying an array of projects commonly referred to as Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) or ‘Heart and Mind’ projects.

Observation Post (OPs) and Check Points (CP) are generally constructed as temporary structures, mostly by ISAF. In Uruzgan they are staffed by the private Armed Security Guards (ASG), the Afghan National Army (ANA), or the Afghan National Police (ANP). Unlike most other military bases constructed, the Dutch PRT erected OP DIZAK as a vernacular typology. They did so to ensure a sustainable legacy of the base when it is being transferred to local security forces post the ISAF withdrawal from Uruzgan in 2015.

Observation Post (OPs) and Check Points (CP) are generally constructed as temporary structures, mostly by ISAF. In Uruzgan they are staffed by the private Armed Security Guards (ASG), the Afghan National Army (ANA), or the Afghan National Police (ANP). Unlike most other military bases constructed, the Dutch PRT erected OP DIZAK as a vernacular typology. They did so to ensure a sustainable legacy of the base when it is being transferred to local security forces post the ISAF withdrawal from Uruzgan in 2015.

Three 500-pound bombs obliterated a Qala, the Pashto name for house, in Spin Ghar when the Taliban used the structure to attacked ISAF forces. Here, the owner receives financial compensation for the damage of property and livestock.

Three 500-pound bombs obliterated a Qala, the Pashto name for house, in Spin Ghar when the Taliban used the structure to attacked ISAF forces. Here, the owner receives financial compensation for the damage of property and livestock.

Shuras are consultation bodies, consisting predominantly of influential tribal leaders and village elderly. This form of political representation is strongly rooted in the local community. Especially in the final years of the mission, TF-U asked for the assembly of Shuras as a way to discuss a wide array of reconstruction objectives, for instance on issues of good governance or water disputes.

Shuras are consultation bodies, consisting predominantly of influential tribal leaders and village elderly. This form of political representation is strongly rooted in the local community. Especially in the final years of the mission, TF-U asked for the assembly of Shuras as a way to discuss a wide array of reconstruction objectives, for instance on issues of good governance or water disputes.

Patrol in Seyyedan inspecting the progress on a water well project.

Patrol in Seyyedan inspecting the progress on a water well project.

Uruzgan featured very little school buildings prior to the ISAF intervention. Although basic ‘education’ was being facilitated in private houses, mosques, or in open-air structures, as seen here.

Uruzgan featured very little school buildings prior to the ISAF intervention. Although basic ‘education’ was being facilitated in private houses, mosques, or in open-air structures, as seen here.

A new school building on the outskirts of the village of Sajawul. At the time of inspection it was still under construction.

A new school building on the outskirts of the village of Sajawul. At the time of inspection it was still under construction.

The existing jail in Tarin Kowt has been upgraded with a new sanitation block, including showers. It forms part of a larger endeavor for the city district to increase levels of hygiene, for instance with the rehabilitation of a building accommodation public toilets.

The existing jail in Tarin Kowt has been upgraded with a new sanitation block, including showers. It forms part of a larger endeavor for the city district to increase levels of hygiene, for instance with the rehabilitation of a building accommodation public toilets.

Water management is a crucial component in the livelihood of people. This ‘cash-for-work’ project involved the maintenance and cleaning of an irrigation channel by locals, being encouraged by megaphone.

Water management is a crucial component in the livelihood of people. This ‘cash-for-work’ project involved the maintenance and cleaning of an irrigation channel by locals, being encouraged by megaphone.

Projects by large international organizations are frequently executed with an arms-length approach, resulting in ad-hoc adaptations. Pushing beyond generic models and established modes of operation, tailoring much more closely western ambitions to vernacular ways of life and local needs is key to ensuring the long-term sustainability of projects.

Projects by large international organizations are frequently executed with an arms-length approach, resulting in ad-hoc adaptations. Pushing beyond generic models and established modes of operation, tailoring much more closely western ambitions to vernacular ways of life and local needs is key to ensuring the long-term sustainability of projects.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) finances this guesthouse and city hotel built in the city of Tarin Kowt. The buildings’ appearance is unique in Uruzgan.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) finances this guesthouse and city hotel built in the city of Tarin Kowt. The buildings’ appearance is unique in Uruzgan.

The Dutch PRT identified and executed a number of projects in the city of Tarin Kowt, among which this volleyball field – a sport incredibly popular with the Afghans.

The Dutch PRT identified and executed a number of projects in the city of Tarin Kowt, among which this volleyball field – a sport incredibly popular with the Afghans.

Key village districts are peppered with these remarkable buildings. The police posts form the frontier for a stable security climate. The typology came to existence as lessons were learned, adopting the flat roof as an observation platform.

Key village districts are peppered with these remarkable buildings. The police posts form the frontier for a stable security climate. The typology came to existence as lessons were learned, adopting the flat roof as an observation platform.

Infrastructure rehabilitation was important for a number of reasons; military logistic between Forward Operations Bases (FOBs) and the reach of operations, improved connectivity as means to deliver economic development of communities, and improvements for agricultural production. A wide range of bridges were facilitated.

Infrastructure rehabilitation was important for a number of reasons; military logistic between Forward Operations Bases (FOBs) and the reach of operations, improved connectivity as means to deliver economic development of communities, and improvements for agricultural production. A wide range of bridges were facilitated.

Specialist Operations would like to thank departments of Dutch Armed Forces and would like to thank them for their collaboration and extensive assistance. In particular it is grateful to the people who have served in Uruzgan and who provided this extraordinary insight. Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Defence. The project is made possible with financial support of the Creative Industry Fund NL.

Volume #40: Architecture of Peace ReloadedThis article by Jan Willem Petersen was published in Volume’s 40th issue, ‘Architecture of Peace Reloaded’.

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