NATO civilian sees steady progress in Helmand
Returning from her second Afghanistan tour, where she most recently served as Head of the Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) and NATO Senior Civilian for Regional Command Southwest, Lindy Cameron highlighted improved governance and its positive impacts on the Afghan population at a media roundtable at NATO Headquarters on 12 October 2010.
As the head of the PRT in Helmand, Ms Cameron directed the international stabilisation and development work across the province, including some 200 civilian and military staff from the United Kingdom, the United States, Denmark and Estonia. Nine District Stabilisation Teams throughout the province provide civilian expertise and mentoring to their Afghan government counterparts, as well as manage development projects that directly benefit the Afghan population.
Ms Cameron contrasted the situation in Helmand province from her first visit in 2006, when insecurity, a devastated economy and unproductive governance plagued the province, with the progress she witnessed over the past year.
She specifically cited the benefits of Governor Gulab Mangal's leadership. He implemented the first merit-based selection of district governors as well as an effective alternative livelihoods programme. As a result, the people of Helmand have demonstrated a gradual shift in confidence in the Afghan government. Recruitment for the civil service has increased, public debate has become more inclusive, and more individuals are willing to run for district community councils.
She praised the efforts of the Afghan National Security Forces, as not a shot was fired within six kilometers of Helmand's capital of Lashkar Gah during recent parliamentary elections. Instead of focusing on security, officials were able to focus on fighting fraud, with international experts playing a minimal role.
On progress in Marjah, Ms Cameron noted that "Marjah is making exactly the kind of progress we would expect it to," particularly in light of the fact that the district started from a much lower baseline than anywhere else. Governance had to be built "from scratch" and while still a work in progress, she saw real evidence that the government is making a difference during a visit there last week.
The focusing of resources on Marjah resulted in Afghan government control of all the district centres in Central Helmand, multiplying the positive impact on the population's confidence.