Turbine delivered to Afghan project
Troops escort equipment to site of US-funded dam
KABUL, Afghanistan - It was a weeklong journey through Afghanistan's most dangerous Taliban territory, dodging persistent attacks by insurgents and bumping over rough desert terrain riddled with mines.
But a snaking convoy of 4,000 coalition forces, guarded by dozens of attack helicopters and fighter jets, arrived successfully with its cargo: a turbine for a US-funded dam project that could provide more than 6 percent of the country's electricity.
More than 200 Taliban militants were killed by forces protecting the convoy, British officials told a reporter from the Times of London who traveled with the group. No deaths were reported among coalition forces, but a British soldier had his pelvis crushed as he tried to repair a broken down vehicle, reporter Jeremy Page wrote.
Western officials had long fretted they would not be able to deliver the much-needed turbine safely through the Taliban-held land.
British, US, and Canadian troops escorted the hulking machine as it traveled 110 miles from the city of Kandahar to the site of the Kajaki dam project - the largest American aid project in Afghanistan - in neighboring Helmand province. The province is the most violent region in the country.
The troops fended off countless attacks and disabled scores of improvised explosive devices during the weeklong journey.
"The result of the operation will be a much needed increase in capacity to generate electrical power, which will create a better quality of life for Afghan people in southern Afghanistan," NATO's International Security Assistance Force said in a statement.
Troops from Denmark, Australia, and Afghanistan also took part. The turbine arrived in Kajaki on Tuesday.
Major General J. G. M. Lessard, the commander of NATO troops in southern Afghanistan, said the mission to protect the turbine clearly demonstrated NATO's and the Afghan government's commitment to reconstruction.
"Despite the disruptive effort from the insurgents, we achieved our goal and delivered the new turbine," Lessard said. "The insurgents' efforts have not been successful. They will not win and are not winning in the southern region."
Kajaki is an American-built hydroelectric dam project with the potential to provide Afghanistan with 6 percent of its power. It is the largest American aid project in Afghanistan. The dam was originally built in the 1950s to help Afghan farmers irrigate their fields.