POL-E KOMRI, Afghanistan – The Kunduz River begins as melting glacier high in the Hindu Kush mountains amid some of Asia’s most unforgiving and stunning mountain terrain.

It descends into the Kuduz valley where it irrigates agriculture that feeds some 2.5 million Afghans before continuing its journey north and ultimately becoming a tributary of the Amu Darya River, one of central Asia’s largest and most vital waterways.

Along the way, locals refer to it as the Bamiyan River near the epic mountain town of the same name or the Surkhab as it flows through Baghlan province.

Here in Pol-e Komri, its vitality is remarkable: it hydrates, it feeds and, with the help of a hydroelectric dam in town, it provides power to the region.

But in the capital of Baghlan province situated strategically near the fork in Afghanistan’s primary highway, the gently flowing currents controlled by the concrete dam separates the economic center of town and the government facilities.

For years, pedestrians and vehicles alike traversed the river, split it two by a slit of an island, by way of a makeshift wooden bridge that bows under the weight of passing vehicles and is unfit for heavy, industrial vehicles.

Enter U.S. Army Capt Amy Zolendziewski and her compact team from the 83rd Civil Affairs Battalion. They’re on the final stages of overseeing the construction of a series of new bridges that will connect the two sides of town.

Zolendziewski , a 30-year-old from Fort Bragg, N.C., whose friendly smile and patient manners welcome the Afghan contractors erecting the bridge, praised the Afghans for cooperating impressively.

It’ not the sort of project that will draw national attention upon completion later this year nor will its designers present it for civil engineering awards, but it’s another small step in increasing Afghan capabilities.

Tom Brinkworth, 54, of New Albany, Ind., who serves as a civilian employee with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has been working on similar projects for several years in Afghanistan.

He praised the contractor’s commitment to meeting the exacting standards of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Tom Brinkworth, 54, of New Albany, Ind., who serves as a civilian employee with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has been working on similar projects for several years in Afghanistan.

He praised the contractor’s commitment to meeting the exacting standards of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“This is one of the more technical projects that I’ve seen and you can tell they’re definitely getting better at this sort of work,” he said. “This bridge should be around for a very long time. And that’s the outcome we’re looking for.”

The bridge project is part of a larger civil affairs footprint that leverages Western know-how with Afghan labor to deliver projects that positively impact life for Afghans. The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan must be able to sustain all of the projects in order for civil affairs teams to start work.

Teams are also working on a carpet weaving  training center in Balkh, a women’s bazaar in Jowzjan as well as wool processing center in Dedadi.

There are nine projects valued at $10.2 million underway across Regional Command North, which stretches from the sliver of a Chinese border in Badakhshan to the Turkmenistan border in the west and approximately halfway to Kabul in the south.

In the past five months, civil affairs teams have transferred authority to the Afghan government on roads, bridges, irrigation canals, school, job training centers and clinics. Over the past three years, the coalition has invested approximately $38 million in similar projects across Regional Command North.

All with the same goal: improving life for Afghans.

“We are using their system and their government to make their lives better and improve stability in the region,” Capt. Zolendziewski said.