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Failed Afghan dam project ‘offered British military redemption’ after Iraq debacl

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Failed Afghan dam project ‘offered British military redemption’ after Iraq debacl

Kajaki DamThe Telegraph-The British military took on one of the biggest operations of the war in Afghanistan to redeem itself after failures in Iraq, transporting a huge dam turbine through hostile territory in a largely symbolic act, according to a new report.

British officers and American aid officials ignored warnings that the mission to Kajaki dam, in Helmand province, was flawed and that power lines from the hydroelectric plant had yet to be repaired.

The fate of the giant turbine – still in packing crates at the dam almost five years after 200 insurgents were killed during the operation to deliver it – has become a metaphor for the Afghan war, cited repeatedly as an example of how attempts to rebuild the country have failed.

Research by Noah Arjomand of the Afghan Analysts Network, based on interviews with British and American officials, found that Operation Eagle’s Nest was conducted for the benefit of the British military and USAID, the organisations that championed the project.

“Over time, Turbine Two became a way for both the American aid agency and the British military to show their mettle to a dominant US Department of Defense,” the report concluded.

“The turbine thus took on significance beyond the actual 1.5 megawatts of electricity that it was to provide, especially bearing in mind that this would, in fact, put only a small dent in the ever-increasing demand for electricity from southern Afghanistan’s cities.”

For the British military, the operation offered “redemption” after being forced out of Basra in 2007, concludes the report.

The five-day operation was the biggest of its kind since the Second World War, consuming enormous military resources at a time when British forces were already spread thin.

A convoy of 100 vehicles moved seven 20 to 30-ton turbine sections from Kandahar airfield to the dam.

Aid officials hoped the turbine would produce power for thousands of families, winning them over to the government in Kabul.

The turbine was never installed. Chinese contractors pulled out, citing lack of security, and forces were unable to secure the road to Kajaki for delivery of cement and gravel.

American officials now hope work can finally begin this year, after security on the road through Sangin to the dam has improved.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: “The decision for UK troops to transport the turbine was made by ISAF and was based on military guidance. In 2008 British troops were operating in the Kajaki area and had access to the capabilities required to transport the turbines, therefore it made military sense for UK forces to lead the mission.”

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