The head of the Helmand PRT, Michael O’Neill, was speaking at a media briefing in London via satellite link from Lashkar Gah yesterday along with Brigadier Ed Davis, Commander Task Force Helmand and Commander of 3 Commando Brigade, the current lead element of British troops in Helmand.
Brigadier Davis spoke about ‘maintaining momentum’ and said that the campaign is on track, with the people of Helmand beginning to see that the Afghan Government process was offering them the kind of future that they wanted.
See Related News for more on Brigadier Davis’s assessment.
Mr O’Neill said that the broad picture of the development of governance showed similar progress to that described by the Brigadier but that there was a lot to do over the next two years as a result of moving into the period of transition. He continued:
In the last 18 to 24 months we have seen significant extension of Afghan governance at the provincial and district levels. Governor Mangal, who many people know, has been in office for three-and-a-half years now and has proved to be a very effective and strong leader.
We also have an elected provincial council with 15 members, including four women. Twenty-six of the national Afghan ministries are now present in Lashkar Gah, so there has been a significant strengthening of governance.
Mr O’Neill said that a recent poll of 4,000 households had shown a high level of confidence in the government and the security forces, but it also showed a high level of concern in the level of corruption, which was being addressed.
With the government structure in place, the planning and budgeting for next year is well underway, he added. There are now district governors in 12 of the 14 provinces, whereas in 2008 there were only five. Elected councils were now in place in six districts.
This process was being extended, leading to a spread of Afghan capacity, a key yardstick as we move towards 2014.
With that progress in mind, Mr O’Neill said that the work being done now by the PRT, very much in partnership with Task Force Helmand and the US Marines, is concentrating on the development of the systems of government and justice, in particular training and mentoring members of the district councils and line management. He added:
We are also putting a lot of effort now into key economic infrastructure, by which I mean roads, irrigation networks and power. There’s a lot to do, but that work has begun to move forward quite quickly. Blacktop roads for example are being built across central Helmand. This economic development is key for the future.
Our work in the PRT is very much focused on building Afghan systems, building their capacity, and helping to strengthen the links between the province and Kabul and developing the private sector and attracting investors.
PRTs are at the heart of NATO’s ISAF mission. They embody a joint military and civilian approach to stabilising Afghanistan and consist of a combination of international military and civilian personnel.