Tag Archives: Ghazni PRT

With the American PRT

These are from a patrol with the American PRT. We went out for a full day of visits to several development projects.

The U.S. PRT’s engineering representative stops to talk to the Afghan engineer on a road expansion project. Part of the goal that day was to inform Afghans with shops along the road that in addition to billions of dollars in aid,  the Americans had also brought with them the  concept of eminent domain. Those in the way were told they’d have to move so that the Kabul-Kandahar highway could go from two lanes to four.

The Americans spent a significant amount of time in the market that day. One soldier took the opportunity to get some shopping done – he cleared out all the eggs, onions, peppers and potatoes from a single surprised shopkeeper. The soldiers cook on hot pots in their rooms (anything to avoid chow hall food). The Afghans get really excited and happy when they see PRT soldiers coming their way. Little kids swarmed all over us saying “Give me something!”— the one phrase they know in English.

Of course when you don’t give them something, they often reveal the other English phrase they know, “Fu*k You.”

All the little boys were tugging at me asking me to take their picture and then show it to them on my display screen. It’s an endless source of entertainment for them.

These men wanted their picture taken as well. The one on the left spoke a few words in English. He asked me to bring him a copy of the picture and I told him his English was very good. He proudly said he is studying from a book, and pointed to his electronics shop to let me know where I could find him when I came back to give him his picture.

Ghazni Hospital

Polish and U.S. representatives from the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) visited the main Ghazni hospital in May to participate in a working group meeting with doctors and hospital administrators.

Here’s a female Polish doctor from the PRT sitting next to physician’s assistant from the U.S. National Guard. The green and tan digital camouflage uniform in the foreground is what most Americans wear. (Here’s an interesting article from The Atlantic about why digital camo is actually better at fooling the eye than traditional swirly/tiger stripes camo.)

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The purpose of the meeting was to set priorities and action items for hospital projects with the funds allocated by the central government. At least, that’s what the PRT thought going in. The Afghans are (unfortunately) used to handing over a list of projects, which the PRT dutifully gets to work on. This means things get built but it is obviously not a long term solution. The Afghans are still getting used to the idea of working with a central bureaucracy.  The PRT is trying to transition to a support role, and is encouraging the Afghans to take the lead — teaching them to work through their local government channels. It’s difficult and slow going. For example:

Afghans: “But the PRT could just do this for us, that would be easier.”

PRT reps: “We aren’t going to do that anymore. You have money from your government and you have to find out how much you have, and set priorities. We can help fund the gap.”

Afghans: “But we don’t even know how much our budget from Kabul is. We’ve never gotten money from them.”

PRT reps: “You have to ask your local district represenative about your budget, and we can go from there.”

Afghans: “We don’t even know who that is.”

Another Afghan: “I think it’s [so-and-so], but I sent him a letter two months ago and haven’t heard anything or seen him.”

And on.

This meeting did however end on a positive note — the Afghan doctors were an impressive bunch; It was clear many of them understood English and a few even spoke it quite well. There were two women in attendance, who confidently smiled and shook my hand as they walked in before the meeting began. Everyone around the table took turns listening to others speak. They provided a generous amount of delicious weak tea, and tasty cakes and candies for their visitors. Very kind, considering Afghan meetings are known to go on for hours, and this one was no exception.

These were smart, educated people, and I could sense they understood what was being asked of them. They didn’t appear to shy away from the challenge.

More pictures from the meeting here.

Reconstruction in Ghazni

Recently on the official Ghazni PRT blog, there was an interesting story about a little-known aspect of what the Polish contingent in Afghanistan is doing to try to help the Afghan people:

“GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan – More than 150 contractors participated in a contracting conference held by the Ghazni Provincial Reconstruction Team in Ghazni City Feb. 8. The conference was organized to familiarize contractors from Ghazni Province with the requirements for submitting bids on projects organized by the PRT. The orientation was critical due to the large number of bids rejected as a result of errors, according to the PRT. “This figure reaches up to 70 percent,” said Polish Army Lt. Col. Cezary Kiszkowiak, Ghazni PRT deputy commander.

Organizers were positively surprised by the large number of participants, said Dominika Springer, PRT specialist for NGOs and small businesses. She said in January, they made initial contact with the Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “By collaborating with this institution we were able to reach a very large number of contractors with information and invitations about the conference,” said Springer. “Interestingly, information about the training also reached beyond the borders of the province as we also met people from Kabul at the conference.”

The training for contractors was the first of its kind in Ghazni Province.

Angela Szyszlo (right), a Ghazni Provincial Reconstruction Team education specialist, talks to Afghan contractors Feb. 8 during a break at a conference in Ghazni City. The conference goal was to enhance cooperation between the PRT and local industry and clarify bidding procedures and legal requirements for PRT contracts. (Photo by Artur Weber, Task Force White Eagle Public Affairs)

Read the rest here.