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Taliban stall key Afghan project: report

The Kajaki dam.
by Staff Writers
London (AFP) Dec 14, 2009
The future of an enormous hydroelectric turbine dragged through insurgency-hit Afghanistan by several thousand British troops for a major energy project is now in doubt, a report said Monday.

NATO forces are unable to secure a road leading to the dam in unstable Helmand province so that workers can finish the project, the Guardian said.

The mission to deliver the turbine and equipment to Kajaki dam was hailed last year as a major achievement for British forces deployed in Helmand, while the project was meant to eventually generate power for the country's south.

But the newspaper said 15 months after the successful mission, the turbine's components remain unassembled because huge amounts of cement required to install the equipment cannot be delivered safely.

The United States Agency for International Development, which has so far pumped 47 million dollars (29 million pounds) into the project, says it is packing up the turbine parts, the paper said.

It was now looking for other energy projects to invest in across Afghanistan, it said.

"Our message is that until we have a secure road we cannot continue with the installation of turbine two," said John Smith-Sreen, head of energy and water projects in USAID in Kabul.

"When the turbine was moved in by British and American forces it was a huge effort and it was done in a point of time," he said.

"But we can't move in the large quantity of cement, and aggregate that we need in a point of time, we need a sustained effort."

British and other NATO troops accompanied the turbine on the 180-kilometre (110-mile) journey from the Pakistani border, fighting off insurgents along the way, Britain's defence ministry said at the time.

Insurgents have since been unable to get close to the dam and its turbine hall, but heavy fighting around the area of British control is an almost daily occurrence, it said.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown vowed a renewed effort to defeat the Taliban insurgency as he made an unannounced visit Sunday to troops in Helmand.

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Brown in Afghanistan vows new push to defeat Taliban
Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan (AFP) Dec 13, 2009
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown vowed a renewed effort to defeat the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan as he made an unannounced visit to troops in the field Sunday. Brown made the visit two weeks after ordering the deployment of 500 extra British troops to Afghanistan alongside a surge of 30,000 US forces, part of a sweeping new strategy to turn around the eight-year war. He held ta ... read more

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