A train waits to move on the train track between the Afghanistan border and Mazar-e-Sharif. (Photo by Army Sgt. Michael Reinsch, IJC Public Affairs)
Kabul, Afghanistan (Dec 07, 2011) – Mining minerals and raw materials is one of the most profitable businesses in the world. Whether its coal or raw metals, it's one industry that Afghanistan cannot afford to miss out on, but in order to do that, they need a way to transport the materials.
That is where the Railway Advisory Team comes in.
"The Railway Advisory Team is here to create a railroad authority in Afghanistan much like those found in the U.S. or Europe,” said Army Maj. Timothy Christensen, International Security Assistance Force Headquarters Afghanistan Railway Advisory Team. "We are capacity building and teaching Afghans about railroading.”
The Afghanistan Railway Authority, which is waiting for approval from the Afghanistan presidential cabinet, will be set up to monitor and regulate the railway industry in the country.
"We are teaching the Afghan people from the ground up on how to run a railway and connecting them with international industries to get that extra piece of knowledge so they can become the regulators of the railways in Afghanistan,” said Christensen.
They are here to help build the infrastructure for the Afghans and teach them about the railway industry. The next step is to help them build a national rail plan for all of Afghanistan, he said.
"Afghanistan has an amazing amount of mineral wealth in the ground, a lot of it is in coal and iron ore,” said Christensen. "Those two commodities cannot be moved economically without a railroad. In order to develop Afghanistan's economy to its fullest potential, a railroad will be necessary.”
Afghanistan has only 75 kilometers of railway right now, which is currently not operational.
This isn't the first time this has been done in a foreign country. According to Army Maj. Scott Meyer, ISAF Headquarters Afghanistan Railway Advisory Team, this is the same concept that was put into action in Iraq. Similar practices will be put in place in Afghanistan. Currently, the Railway Advisory Team has several Afghans working with them to learn the process.
"We will eventually begin training the Afghanistan Railway Authority personnel how to plan and operate a railway,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Stokes, ISAF Headquarters Afghanistan Railway Advisory Team. "Right now we are trying to build a training plan for the ARA.”
Christensen added that eventually, the Afghans will be able to train their fellow countrymen and continue the program. "The members we will train will become the future leaders of the ARA.”
By U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kristopher Levasseur
International Security Assistance Force Headquarters