BAGRAM, Afghanistan (Army News Service, Oct. 3, 2006) - After spending time with Soldiers in Afghanistan last week, Secretary of the Army Francis Harvey says he continues to be pleased with progress being made in the war-torn country.

Harvey's Sept. 25-27 trip was his third into Afghanistan during his nearly two-year tenure. He focused on visiting 10th Mountain Division Soldiers, from whom he received updates on equipment, training and building of the Afghan infrastructure.

"It's always good to be with Soldiers," said the secretary. "I applaud their dedication to support and defend our country, and what they are doing for Afghanistan."

Maj. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, 10th Mountain Division commander, shared with the Army's top official the great success his troops have had in building and maintaining good relations in a land 30 percent larger than Iraq and whose population is 15 percent greater.

He explained the division's key priorities, which include massive construction efforts in roads, water and power plants, schools and district centers.

One project that's impacted the lives of Afghans in the Nangarhar Province is a recently constructed bridge over the Pich River. Before its construction, residents were often cut off from resources - women had to wade through the river to get food and wood, and children had difficulties getting to school for the same reason.

"(These projects) have had a positive change in this country," said Freakley. "Children are going to school and they are happy. People think that the improvement is good."

"I'm impressed with the progress in building the infrastructure of Afghanistan," agreed Harvey. "It is necessary in building the nation's economy."

Maj. Gen. Robert Durbin, commander, Combined Security Transition Command, briefed the secretary on the progress being made in with the Afghan National Security Forces.

"We are building up both the army and the police to adequate levels, with priority being placed on the police," said Durbin. "The key is quality, not quantity."

The transition command is focusing on making the Afghan forces self-reliant. To date, the Afghan army has contributed in route clearance and de-mining operations while also providing security for road construction efforts

Harvey said he is happy with the sound plan that Durbin and his team have set up for the country.

"The security forces are starting to expand in a quality way," he said.

While visiting troops in Jalalabad, Harvey stressed that winning the confidence of the Afghan people is vital to success. He thanked Soldiers there for assisting in the security and reconstruction missions.

"The locals have to believe that they will be better off tomorrow than today and are better off today than yesterday," said Harvey. "Following the fifth anniversary of 9-11, we have to remember that five years ago this was the land where evil people were hiding, and this is where justice will be done."

Page last updated Tue October 3rd, 2006 at 14:06