Lashkar Gah (Pashto: لښکرګاه) (Persian: لشکرگاه), historically also called Bost, is a city in southern Afghanistan and the capital of Helmand Province, located in Lashkar Gah district. It is situated between the Helmand and Arghandab rivers. Lashkar Gah is linked by highways 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. 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, Genghis Khan, and Timur Leng.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.)
The modern city of Lashkar Gah was built as a headquarters for American engineers working on the Helmand Valley Authority (HVA) irrigation project in the 1950s, modeled after the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in the US. 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 Arghandab Valley Authority (HAVA), a semi-independent government agency whose authority (in its heyday) rivaled that of the provincial governors.
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.
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 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 hire to the citizens. 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.
Parks and recreational places:
- Mirwais Khan Hotak Park is located on the bank of the Helmand River.
- Mohammadd Rasul Akhondzada Park is located at the 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.
- Ladies Park.
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 among people. Several radio stations are broadcasting in Lashkar Gah, for example: the Tamadoon Radio 107 FM, the Sabawoon Radio station, the Samoon Radio station, and the Helmand Radio. 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.
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.
As part of Operation Moshtarak - 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.Sports:
Football is very popular in Lashkar Gah. The Lashkar Gah football stadium was rebuilt in 2006, and has a capacity of more than 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, and Volleyball.