Paper No. 279-5
Presentation Time: 2:05 PM

U.S. ARMY-AFGHAN HYDROLOGICAL PROJECTS: A GRASSROOTS TOOL FOR THE COUNTERINSURGENCY, AFGHANISTAN


STEWART, Alexander K., Department of Geology, St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY 13617, astewart@stlawu.edu
Water is paramount for survival during both peace and war with water-secure belligerents better situated for victory. For a century, the US military has been scientifically managing their access to water resources (both hydrologic and hydrogeologic) to support their wartime operations. In Afghanistan, however, this effort has been expanded to support the local populace and their water needs – a strategic element of a “desert” counterinsurgency. Nearly the entire Afghan population lives in the desert or xeric-shrubland ecosystems, so water is their primary concern. Water in these ecosystems provides sustenance, but is usually received as short-lived, high-discharge runoff events (e.g., snowpack melt). Control and management of these events from the Hindu Kush is vital to personal survival and national efforts to move agriculture from subsistence to economic. As a result, US Army Agriculture Development Teams (ADT) have been offering hydrological support, infrastructure and management advice to the Afghan people. For example, hydrological advice is provided regarding dam and dam-hazards safety to dam emplacement and general hydrological education programs at the university and high-school levels. Hydrological infrastructure development ranges from simple, quick-win projects such as gabion emplacement to irrigation support to longer term, more involved projects such as watershed assessments, analyses and/or restoration and runoff-retention features (e.g., delay-action dams). All project ideas are derived from the local populace and communicated to the team by the provincial Director of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock. Geology- and engineering-based projects, typically run by soldier-geologists, are then planned, developed and put out for bid to local contractors. Projects are funded by the USA and QAQC’d by team soldier-geologists, but completed by local contractors with a commitment from the community to support and sustain the project(s). The addition of water-related projects to the ADT mission is critical to providing intellectual and infrastructural support, which promotes and secures the agricultural mission. By contributing to water security and peace of mind, ADTs are helping win the “hearts and minds” of the Afghan people, which is the foundation of a counterinsurgency.