Press Releases 2010
Ambassador Ken Gross Visits GBAO Region
GBAO, Tajikistan: U.S. Ambassador Ken Gross made his first official visit to the Pamir region of Tajikistan as Ambassador from July 8 to July 13 to learn about the region and its development. On his first day in Khorog, he met with the deputy governor of Gorno-Badakhshan, Ibrohimbek Ghozibekov, to discuss key development issues in the region. His trip included stops in Garm Chachma, Ishkashim, Langar, Bibi-Fatima, Murgab, and Kulma.
"I came to GBAO as Deputy Chief of Mission in 2004, and it's encouraging to see that a great amount of development has occurred in the past six years. GBAO has great potential for tourism and trade and exchange between neighboring countries," remarked Ambassador Gross. "I'm excited about strengthening ties between the United States and the people of this region through cultural exchanges and economic development."
Ambassador Gross visited U.S. Embassy-supported border projects in Khorog, Ishkashim, Murgab, and Kulma. In Khorog, the United States has contributed approximately $300,000 to refurbish the joint Tajik - Afghan training facility. He later visited the mobile intercept office construction sites in Ishkashim and Murgab that will be used as home bases for Tajikistan's Drug Control Agency vehicles. The United States is funding intercept cars and office space at a cost of over $540,000. Ambassador Gross surveyed the use of radio equipment at the Border Guard Detachments in Khorog and Murgab. The U.S. Government provided Tajik border guards more than $8 million in radios and radio support equipment from 2007 to 2009.
The Ambassador visited the free trade zone in Ishkashim and then continued on to the construction site of the U.S. Government-funded customs and border facility at Kulma, on the Chinese border. The U.S. Government has provided $1.6 million in assistance funds in partnership with the Asian Development Bank to build border and customs facilities at Kulma and Kizil-Art. The border posts will help increase the flow of trade between Tajikistan, China, and Kyrgyzstan.
Ambassador Gross, after visiting the free trade zone in Ishkashim and the construction site of the U.S. Government-funded customs facility at Kulma, remarked, "We commend the efforts of the Government of Tajikistan to prevent narcotic trafficking through Central Asia. With planning and cooperation, the borders will not only be secure, but open to trade and hopefully tourism as well.
The Ambassador met with alumni of U.S. Government exchange programs in Khorog and Murgab. In Khorog, he had lunch at the American Corner with 12 alumni, and discussed the needs of young people in GBAO with them. All were winners of open and competitive programs to study in the United States. In Murgab, he had lunch with the town's first-ever Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) program participants, both of whom recently returned from a one-year educational exchange program. The two winners, students of schools 1 and 14 in Murgab, lived with host families in California and Michigan and attended American high schools. The next day, the Ambassador gave over 100 books to the teachers and students of schools 1 and 14 for their excellence in English language teaching and leadership.
"Despite difficult environmental and economic conditions, the students and teachers of Murgab excel in English learning. We hope that more students will take part in this and other U.S. Government programs, and we plan to expand our cultural and educational programs in GBAO," remarked Ambassador Gross.
Ambassador Gross also visited the University of Central Asia's Cross Border Vocational Education program, which is partially funded by the United States Agency for International Development. With U.S. Government assistance, the program has expanded to include modules on English language, information technology, bookkeeping, and translation. The U.S. Government provided more than $250,000 to improve the economic opportunities of Tajiks and Afghans by providing practical skill courses.
At the end of the trip, Ambassador Gross remarked, "This trip has shown me many opportunities for partnership between the U.S. Government and the people of the GBAO region. I now know more about the challenges people here face, and I look forward to developing relationships that lead to greater cultural exchange, economic prosperity, and border security."
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