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Afghans try to protect builders

Afghanistan's president has ordered increased security for workers building roads, dams, electricity lines and telecommunications systems in an attempt to revive key projects stalled by insurgent attacks that have killed or kidnapped dozens of labourers.

The US and other international allies have poured billions into Afghanistan for infrastructure projects that also include mining and irrigation. The projects are one of the pillars of the counterinsurgency strategy and are aimed at sapping support for the Taliban.

The attacks have halted many of the projects for months or even years, and the Cabinet met to discuss ways to restart them.

President Hamid Karzai said in the meeting that he was ordering more security. It is a difficult task, given that Afghan forces are already stretched to meet the demands of fighting the insurgency.

A government statement after the meeting said insurgents have killed 53 road construction workers and kidnapped 110 since 2005.

Attacks on irrigation and dam projects have killed 30 workers in recent years; another four have been kidnapped. Insurgents have also killed nine telecommunications workers and kidnapped nine others.

As a result, a road construction project in eastern Wardak province has been delayed for 13 months, the government said.

Work has stopped on a road planned from the capital city of Kabul to the key eastern city of Jalalabad because militants burned 13 vehicles needed for construction, the statement said.

Dam projects, including Salma dam in Herat province, have been suspended indefinitely as has a project to extend electricity lines from Naghlo dam in Kabul province farther east.

And a plan to improve telecommunications in the south-east of the country has been interrupted because of security threats.


From Belfast Telegraph