Photo Information

US Marines and civilians inspect their surroundings in Zaranj, a border town between Iran and Afghanistan that is a major commercial hub for Nimroz province. ISAF and Afghan leaders spent the day in Zaranj to review plans to develop the capital city's infrastructure from commerce routes to waterways.

Photo by Cpl. Timothy L. Solano

Zaranj shows promise for future of Nimroz province

7 Dec 2011 | By Cpl. Timothy L. Solano

ZARANJ, Afghanistan — Leaders of the C-9 Support Operations section aboard Camp Leatherneck met with Nimroz province officials in Zaranj, Dec. 2, to discuss future development in the region as “Tranche II” remains in effect.

“Tranche II,” the second part of a four-phase operation in Nimroz province is an ongoing transition toward infrastructure and security development in the region. The significance of the changeover lies in the fact that it is being led by Afghan provincial leaders as coalition forces take a backseat and merely facilitate the newly empowered government.

Zaranj, the capital of Nimroz province, is located in the extreme southwest corner of Afghanistan and acts as a major hub for commerce between Afghanistan and Iran. In previous months the city was a primary exporter of illegal narcotics into Iran but has become more stable with an enforced governing presence.

“All of the security they have provided down there, they have done 100 percent on their own,” said Maj. Robert Howard, the deputy Nimroz provincial coordination team leader. “They train their own people, they pay their own people and they equip their own people. They have pulled all of this money out of hide and done all this on their own with very little ISAF assistance.”

The governmental independence expressed by Nimroz Provincial Governor Abdul Karim Brahawi provincial government has not been completely hands-free. However, the mentor/mentee relationship between coalition and Afghan leaders has blossomed in accordance with the region, according to Nimroz’ senior provincial leader.

“Our interaction with our [International Security Assistance Forces] partners has always been positive,” said Karim Brahawi. “Every time we have a problem we take it to our mentors and if they have guidance they provide it so we can work it out together.”

The C-9’s most recent visit to Zaranj targeted infrastructure development in the city, which would ultimately spread throughout the province once implemented. Though the capital city plays a vital role in pumping economic growth into Nimroz province’s six districts, roads are poorly constructed and there is only one fully-capable hospital. Fresh water is too seldom afforded to the approximately 148,000 people that live throughout Nimroz, collected by individuals who can take only what they can carry.

“Most of water comes from the Lashkari Canal and is distributed into dirty jugs and cooking oil containers,” said Howard. “If the people are lucky they can boil the water ahead of time but if not, that is just what they drink.”

In addition to starting a comprehensive city water project in Zaranj that would ultimately consist of water treatment facilities and wastewater treatment plants, the border town has recently broken ground on a site that symmetrically divides the national border that is slated to become a commercial truck inspection station.

The new security measures will aim to more efficiently search commercial vehicles that come and go from Iran for illegal narcotics and weapons using detection kits and possibly an x-ray scanner. It is expected to improve traffic flow, open up the region’s busiest commercial route and aid in connecting the other districts in the province.

For many Afghan and ISAF leaders alike, hopes are high for the future of Zaranj, whose growth is symbolic of a brighter future in Nimroz.

“In ten or twenty years I see Zaranj being comparable to Dubai,” said Brahawi.

According to Howard, approximately one percent of what is spent in Helmand province is equivalent to NATO’s total contribution to Nimroz, a blatant sign to many that the province will soon be ready to stand on its own.

“The end goal here is to see Nimroz function completely independent of ISAF assistance,” said Howard. “One of the most important things that we have seen here is that the people of Nimroz province can do the best with what they’ve got.”