|Elevation||773 m (2,536 ft)|
Lashkar Gah (Pashto: لښکرګاه; Persian: لشکرگاه), historically also called Bost (Persian: بُسْت), is a city in southern Afghanistan and the capital of Helmand Province. It is located in Lashkar Gah district, and situated between the Helmand and Arghandab rivers. The city has a population of 201,546 as of 2006. Lashkar Gah is linked by major roads with Kandahar to the east, Zaranj to the west, and Herat to the north-west. It is mostly very arid and desolate. However, farming does exist around the Helmand and Arghandab rivers. Bost Airport is located on the east bank of the Helmand River, five miles north of the junction of the Helmand and Argahandab rivers.
Lashkar Gah means "army barracks" in Persian language. The area was part of the Saffarids in the 9th century. It grew up a thousand years ago as a riverside barracks town for soldiers accompanying the Ghaznavid nobility to their grand winter capital of Bost. The ruins of the Ghaznavid mansions still stand along the Helmand River; the city of Bost and its outlying communities were sacked in successive centuries by the Ghorids, Mongols, and Timurids. However, the region was later rebuilt by Timur (Timur Lang).
By the late 16th century the city and region was governed by the Safavid dynasty. It became part of the Afghan Hotaki Empire in 1709. It was invaded by the Afsharid forces in 1738 on their way to Kandahar. By 1747 it became part of the Durrani Empire or modern Afghanistan. The British arrived in or about 1840 during the First Anglo-Afghan War but left about year later. The city was used by Ayub Khan in the Second Anglo-Afghan War until 1880 when the British helped return it to Abdur Rahman Khan. It remained peaceful for the next 100 years.
The modern city of Lashkar Gah was used as a headquarters for United States Army Corps of Engineers working on the Helm-and Valley Authority (HVA) irrigation project in the 1950s, modeled after the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in the United States. Lashkar Gah was built using American designs, with broad tree-lined streets and brick houses with no walls separating them from the street. In the wake of the Soviet invasion and the long Afghan civil war, the trees mostly came down and walls went up.
The massive Helmand irrigation project in the 1940s–1970s created one of the most extensive farming zones in southern Afghanistan, opening up many thousands of hectares of desert to human cultivation and habitation. The project focused on three large canals: the Boghra, Shamalan, and Darweshan. Responsibility for maintaining the canals was given to the Helmand and Arghandab Valley Authority (HAVA), a semi-independent government agency whose authority (in its heyday) rivaled that of the provincial governors.
After the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989 and the collapse of Mohammad Najibullah's government in 1992, the city was taken over by the Mujaheddin forces. In the mid-1990s it fell to the Taliban government. In late 2001, the Taliban were removed from power by the United States armed forces. Since 2002, the city and region was occupied by United States Marine Corps and the International Security Assistance Force. After training and equipping Afghan security forces, the foreign armies transferred security responsibility to the military of Afghanistan and Afghan National Police in 2011. They city has witnessed some fighting in the form of attacks orchestrated by the Taliban insurgents.
The Helmand River is the longest in Afghanistan with a length of 1,150 km. The river originates in the Hindu Kush and ends in Hamun-i-Helmand in the Sistan and Baluchistan province of neighboring Iran. One of the two primary arms of the river crosses through Lashkar Gah, giving it the attractive air of a riverside city. It makes for a pleasant setting for the citizens of Lashkar Gah to picnic. The river is deep enough at Lashkar Gah to allow for varied water sports, including swimming and boating. Boats are available for rent to the public. Mirwais Neka Park was recently built on the banks of the river. There is a large thicket located on the opposite side of the river from the city. Many types of trees and different species of birds, mammals, and reptiles inhabit the thicket.
Cultural and other places
The great fortress of Bost, Qala-e-Bost, remains an impressive ruin. It is located at 31° 30’ 02″ N, 64° 21’ 24″ E near the convergence of the Helmand and Arghandab Rivers, a half hour's drive south of Lashkar Gah. Qala-e-Bost is famous for its decorative arch, which appears on the 100 Afghani note (Afghan currency). As of April 2008, it was possible to descend into an ancient shaft about 20 feet across and 200 feet deep, with a series of dark side rooms and a spiral staircase leading to the bottom. In 2006 construction began on a cobblestone road to lead from the south of Lashkar Gah to the Qala-e-Bost Arch (known to readers of James A. Michener's Caravans as Qala Bist.)
- Mirwais Nika Park, located on the bank of the Helmand River
- Mohammadd Rasul Akhondzada Park, located in center of the city
- Baba-e-Millat Park is huge park which covers an area of seven hectares, and is located on the bank of Helmand river, on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah.
- Park for Females
The population of Lashkar Gah numbers approximately 201,546 as of 2006.
Education and media
The level of education in Lashkar Gah had been very high during 1960s and 70s before the Soviet Invasion and Civil War. The students were talented, active, and hard workers. They were always taking up good positions within the universities. There are around 27 schools, a teacher's training institute, an agricultural school and Bost University in Lashkar Gah. The university was registered with the Ministry of Higher Education in 2007, and was inaugurated by former governor of Helmand Province, Assadullah Wafa. Bost University currently only provides education in the field of Agriculture. There are also many computer and English language courses in the city, and thousands of students are attending them.
Besides the activities of the Department of Culture and Information of Helmand Province, the youth are also actively involved in different cultural and educational activities. There are different cultural groups operating in Lashkar Gah, including: the Helmand Youth Organization, the Bost Cultural Society, the Allama Mahmud Tarzi Educational and Cultural Association, and the Helmand Cultural Group. There are also various cultural and educational websites which are made and updated by students and cultural organizations. There is broad use of the media in Lashkar Gah. The use of Radio, Television, and Internet has significantly increased in the last decade. Several radio stations are broadcasting in Lashkar Gah, including Tamadoon Radio 90.6 FM, Sabawoon Radio, Samoon Radio, and Helmand Radio. Besides many other local Afghan and international TV channels, there is also a Bost Television channel broadcasting from Lashkar Gah.
The city of Lashkar Gah has undergone large scale development in the past few years with new roads, markets and residential areas constructed. Many Afghans continue to leave their tribes and emigrate towards cities – such as Lashkar Gah. Government projects distributed land to the people, increasing the approximate size of the city. Modern architecture and building methods are more common, now, here than Mud squats and other more traditional Afghan architecture. The current Governor of Helmand province, Gulab Mangal, has funded large scale development of the city, the Governor's office and Justice Department have been recently renovated, new Police Headquarters and Eidgah have also been funded. Unlike much of Afghanistan the roads in Lashkar Gah are generally paved with asphalt. International Organizations and PRT in Lashkar Gah have helped to complete rehabilitation and infrastructure projects such as building: schools, roads and parks.
In 2005 it was announced that a USAID-funded project would build six reservoirs in Lashkar Gah, with responsibility for the water supply then being handed over to the Helmand and Arghandab Valley Authority. The city had been without fresh water for the previous 30 years due to the contamination of the Helmand River.
As part of Operation Moshtarak in 2010 – the British Army and local workforces constructed Route Trident, a road to connect Lashkar Gah and the northern, more economic, city of Gereshk, Governor Mangal's efforts to restructure the city have left Route Trident underfunded but highly ranked in the priority of rebuilding Lashkar Gah.
A current project in the city, to aid regeneration is the "Lashkar Gah Bost Airport and Agriculture Center". This project will consist of constructing a new agricultural center, an Industrial Park and will repair, upgrade and modernise Bost Airport through renovation projects.
Football and cricket are the most popular sports in the area. The Lashkar Gah Football Stadium was rebuilt in 2006 and has a capacity of more around 10,000 spectators. Currently, 13 registered cricket teams are playing at the new Karzai Stadium in Lashkar Gah, which was completed in the summer of 2009.
Bodybuilding has also attracted the youth of Lashkar Gah. There are several gymnasiums in the city. Aziz Ahmad Nikyar gained the title of Mr. Afghanistan in 2006, and also participated in the 2006 Asian Games representing Afghanistan. Other popular sports in Lashkar Gah are Taekwondo, Boxing, Snooker, Volleyball.
According to a recent BBC programme which interviewed an American-born Afghan, whose father worked on the irrigation project, it was envisaged to create agriculture, but has in fact in recent times contributed ironically to the growth of opium poppy farming.
- List of cities in Afghanistan
- International Security Assistance Force
- Provincial Reconstruction Team
References and footnotes
- "B. Demography and Population". United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and Afghanistan Statistical Yearbook 2006, Central Statistics Office. Afghanistan's Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development. Retrieved 2011-01-12.
- National Geographic – Qala-E-Bost Arch, Afghanistan, 1968
- USAID Field Report Afghanistan Feb 2005 ReliefWeb
- BBC News (28 January 2010). "Progress slow and messy in Afghanistan". Retrieved 3 September 2010.
- Ministry of Defence (6 July 2010). "Gurkhas help Royal Engineers continue Babaji regeneration". Retrieved 2010-09-03.
- Stanikzai, Zainullah (25 June 2009). "Karzai Stadium reconstructed". Pajhwok Afghan News (PAN). Retrieved 2012-01-13.
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