Provincial Reconstruction Teams look at way forward in Afghanistan
At the 2010 Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) Conference held in Kabul on the 16 and 17 March, NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative, Ambassador Mark Sedwill, stressed PRTs’ role in promoting reconstruction, development and good governance throughout Afghanistan; a role that will be key to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) strategy over the next 18 months.
The conference brought together members from the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, key regional players, as well as representatives from PRTs and other international organizations engaged in Afghanistan.
Ambassador Mark Sedwill opened the conference by introducing the three 'Rs' needed for PRTs' to succeed in Afghanistan.
"The first, Regain...we need to regain the initiative against the insurgents; secondly, we need to Rebuild and reinforce Afghan government institutions, military and civil, so they may take responsibility for governing their country; and lastly, Resolving the political grievances that fuel the insurgence," said Sedwill "Those are the three 'Rs' that are key to the strategy over the next 18 months."
Commander of ISAF Joint Command Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, who hosted the event, explained the importance of the two-day conference to participants.
"The challenges are many, but you can and will make a difference in the lives of the people of this country by your diligent efforts," said Rodriguez. "You all have many talents and I wish you success in our efforts to return this country to the courageous and industrious people of Afghanistan."
Afghans need security, good governance and development
Among the many in attendance were team leaders from each of the PRTs throughout Afghanistan. Attendees, both civilian and military, listened and discussed the needs of the Afghan people. Security, good governance and development were frequently mentioned, in addition to the Afghan government's commitment to take an ever-greater responsibility to achieve these goals.
Local representatives underscored the need to support their community. The representatives also confirmed their support and willingness to prevent disruptive actions by hostile elements.
The conference included several breakout sessions to discuss topics such as information sharing and the assessments process; local governance and PRT collaboration/coordination; the district development concept; the Afghan government budget process; as well as contracting and fair funding.
Helmand Provincial Governor Mohammad Gulab Mangal shared some success stories. "The people of Helmand appreciate PRT contributions to the villages through security, the distribution of alternative crops, installation of bridges, the digging of wells, and building schools and clinics," said Governor Mangal. "Successes are happening."
What’s a PRT and how does it work?
PRTs typically include about 80 people. Roughly 60 are experts in engineering, agriculture and foreign affairs, and about 20 are civilian specialists who work shoulder-to-shoulder with the various Afghan partners.
Working together, the teams help extend the central government’s authority throughout the country by providing area security and supporting the reconstruction and development activities of Afghan, international, national and non-governmental actors in the provinces.
Currently, there are 26 PRTs operating throughout Afghanistan. Some consist of military forces and civilian personnel from a single nation, others are multinational. They are all led by individual ISAF nations.
Overall, a wide variety of projects are underway, facilitated by the PRTs. Schools are being rebuilt with the mentoring or assistance of ISAF engineers, allowing children to resume their education. Irrigation ditches, pipelines, reservoirs and wells are being constructed, bringing water to the local population and farmers. Infrastructure is being repaired and/or built, facilitating mobility and communication. Greater access to medical assistance is being provided.
"Take this with you...'you can teach the man to fish...don't just give the man a fish'," said U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan Representative Mark Ward. "The concept behind that is to help train, educate and create an environment within which governance can self sustain."