City offers glimpse of what prosperous Afghanistan could look like
By Kent Harris
Stars and Stripes Mideast edition
Tuesday, April 5, 2005
HERAT, Afghanistan — If the Pentagon started to look for a
rest-and-recuperation spot for its troops inside Afghanistan, it could do far
worse than this large city near the Iranian border.
“There are two words I would use to describe Herat,” said Sgt. 1st Class
David Stansberry, serving his second tour in country. “Prosperity and cultural.”
In other words, Herat doesn’t look like most of Afghanistan. It has modern
buildings, paved streets and basic infrastructure. Its people, while
approximating the cultural mix that makes up the country, seem a little
different as well.
“The people seem to be more interested in developing their economy than
shooting bullets at each other,” said Maj. Tim Butts, the Task Force Longhorn
engineer. “It’s a very rich province, probably the richest in country.”
Much of Herat’s current success can be attributed to its geography. It’s
located in a relatively flat area that sits on trade routes to Iran and
“The geography has led to an ability to do trade and travel,” said Stansberry,
who speaks Farsi, the language of Iran, less than a two-hour drive away. “And
it’s a pretty city. It’s not as hot as it is down south or as cold as it is in
Though population estimates are difficult in Afghanistan, it’s acknowledged
that the capital, Kabul, is the most populous city. It also has some modern
buildings and the prestige of being the center of Afghan government.
But, “Herat has been, and probably will be, the cultural capital of
Afghanistan,” Stansberry said. “There are a lot of things to see and do here. If
we get security to where it should be, tourism could be a big boon to this
A good portion of the city’s current success can also be attributed to Ismael
Khan, formerly an autocratic ruler of the area who is now a minister in the
“You could say some other things about his rule, but he definitely got the
roads fixed and city power here,” said Staff Sgt. Terry Welch, a public affairs
officer serving his second stint in Herat.
Stansberry, who will soon be heading east to work on a new provincial
reconstruction team at a yet-to-be disclosed location, said he can only hope
that other areas of Afghanistan soon reach the level of relative prosperity that
“Each area and each city has its own personality,” he said. “And once you
understand that, you understand Afghanistan.”
Stars and Stripes is a Department of Defense-authorized daily newspaper
distributed overseas for the U.S. military community.