Monday, January 11, 2010

Will Billions of Dollars to Afghanistan's Provincial Reconstruction Work?

Provincial Reconstruction Team is the term used for the units that are currently rebuilding an infrastructure for Afghanistan. I was watching a short video today and for a second was looking for the Canada Action Plan signs.

However, wouldn't it be more prudent to negotiate a peace settlement first? Otherwise, we are only building things that will probably just be blown up again.

The Harper dictatorship has announced billions and billions of taxpayer dollars to go into this project, and while I think we very much need to rebuild the things we tore down, we have to be a bit more cautious about how that's done.

We have a record deficit in this country, and it's our children and grandchildren who will be paying for it.

Peter MacKay has suggested that private security and some Canadian soldiers will be remaining in the country even after the 2011 pull-out, justifying it as 'reconstruction'. Who are these private security firms that will be cashing in? Are they even Canadian?

Canadian civilians in Afghanistan to rely on private security
By Brian Hutchinson,
Canwest News Service
May 27, 2009

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Canadian civilians working on ambitious, federally-funded reconstruction and development projects in this war-torn region will have to rely on private companies to protect them, Canada's ambassador to Afghanistan said Wednesday.

Troops may stay in Afghanistan, MacKay hints
September 29, 2009
The Canadian Press

Canada could still have soldiers in Afghanistan beyond 2011, although the government maintains that combat operations will cease.

But word from Afghanistan is that these PRTs may not be all they're cracked up to be.

By Dave Pugliese
Feb 2, 2009
Ottawa Citizen

This from the Afghan news site Quqnoos:“The Provincial Council chief says the activities of NATO-led PRT in the last six years is under question. The head of the Provincial Council of the northern province of Balkh, Farhad Azimi, has called the activities of NATO’s Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) in the north “inefficient”.

He said the PRT has not been effective in restoring peace and accelerating the reconstruction process in the northern provinces of Afghanistan, and therefore they must leave the north.

The PRT in the north which has 400 soldiers led by Sweden has the responsibility of coordinating peace efforts and the reconstruction process in Balkh, Samangan, Jouzjan and Sari Pul provinces.

Farhad Azimi who was making a speech about the reconstruction process in the province, during the inauguration ceremony of the start of the work of a ten kilometer road in the north, criticized the PRT and said: “The PRT forces do not care about the development and reconstruction process in Balkh, and their activities have had no positive impacts on developing the people’s living conditions.”He urged the PRT to leave the area.

And Tim Foxley from the Stockholm International Research Institute has this to say:

At the moment, ISAF controls the PRTs – and the civilian elements within take instructions from their national ministries or capitals and so command and control is poor and split.

Getting everyone to agree has never been an ISAF/EU, NATO/international community strongpoint. And we should bear in mind that many actors – national capitals in particular – may not actually want “their” PRT messed with. Their own national flag flying is their demonstration of their political commitment to Afghanistan. Whether the effort is properly coordinated and effective or not is another matter.

However, I just wanted to throw in another option suggestion – taking a bit further forward the notion that the international community should be more focused on getting the Afghans involved much more strongly. With the new Obama strategy focusing on training Afghans (ANA, ANP) and helping them to develop their own capabilities (and Karzai’s very fair complaint that the PRTs are bypassing the Afghan government, perhaps ideas such as handing the PRTs over to the Afghan local or national government in some way might be explored?

It seems to me that this may have more to do with making money, and claiming credits, than actually helping the Afghan people to rebuild. It is their country. They should have a say in how it's done. We were uninvited guests and need to put things back the way they were, not try to convince our hosts to redecorate to suit our tastes.

After Katrina, when the Bush Administration finally got their act together, rebuilding began; but the residents complained that outside contractors were brought in, and few local people were involved, at a time when they badly needed jobs.

We need to demand answers from this government. We are talking about an awful lot of money here. Money that we don't have, but will need to borrow. The initiative is the right one, but the delivery is questionable.

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