U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense visits Panjshir
July 31, 2009
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan- U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Business Transformation, Mr. Paul A. Brinkley, and a hand-picked team of business development leaders, visited the Panjshir valley and the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team, July 26.
Brinkley and the team came to discuss the future of business development and get a first-hand view of the valley, its people, and to get a better understanding of the progress made over the past few years.
The visit started with a short briefing by the PRT leadership focusing on business development challenges, followed by a convoy to the governor's office where Brinkley and the delegation met with Panjshir Governor Haji Bahlol.
The governor indicated that he welcomed new ideas to promote business development in the valley, including tourism, mining, and agricultural processing. The governor also addressed the need for a sustainable, hydro-powered energy source to aid business growth.
"It's their decision to make on how to move forward," Brinkley said. "We need to continue to support them and align our vision with theirs."
The next stop was the Panjshir Windmill Hybrid Power farm, an alternative-energy project that supplies 35 kilowatts of power. The wind-farm project was of special interest to Brinkley, who noted that it was important to remain environmentally and socially conscious while aiding business development.
"It's critical that we help improve the economy without damaging the valley or the culture," Brinkley said.
To get a sense of the local business culture, the team stopped at the Rohka Bazaar, where shop-keepers expressed the desire to expand the market to sell their products.
The group spent the remainder of their time visiting the Abdawa micro-hydro electric project, considered the valley's role-model for other small-scale electric projects, and the Abdara marble cutting and polishing plant, a start-up local business venture. The discussion there centered around the role the Ministry of Mining and the effects of central government policy on production.
Col. Martin B. Bischoff, development chief, Combined Joint Task Force-82, accompanied the delegation and was impressed by what he saw.
"The biggest challenge facing Afghanistan reconstruction is getting past the number of projects and focusing on where to go next with government accountability and business endeavors," he said. "Panjshir is doing that."