Civilian Efforts Reign in Afghanistan

    Locals working to rebuild a bridge in Afghanistan. Civilian reconstruction efforts are seemingly given greater priority than military action. Photo by: Denis Riel

    In Kandahar, Afghanistan, civilian reconstruction efforts are seemingly given greater priority than military action.

    The Afghanistan development strategy underscores the importance of beefing up provincial reconstruction teams in six crucial districts around Kandahar. The civilian operation in the Afghan province has seen a surge in the number of U.S. experts, from eight in 2009 to 110 this year. They are helping to provide subsidized seeds and tools, implement cash-for-work programs, and employ staff for Afghan government offices.

    Devex earlier reported that the U.S. is tapping economic stimulus, primarily through cash-for-work and farm initiatives, to prevent Afghans from serving the Taliban. 

    The idea is to ensure that “the government at the most basic level, the district level, is able to provide some services so that people who are sitting on the fence are able to say, well, the government has something to offer,” said Frank Ruggiero, a senior United States official in the south.

    The U.S. “originally outlined” the goal of using military action to counter the Taliban’s influence, The New York Times reports.

    Meanwhile, insecurity in Kandahar is hindering the implementation of Canada’s flagship project on irrigation. The Star reports that Canadian security officials employed to oversee the project were muscled out of the country by members of the  Watan Risk Management, a group of Afghan mercenaries tied with the Karzai family.

    “[T]he thugs from Watan won, and the Canadian security managers involved were put on the next plane home, lucky to be alive,” a witness to the standoff told the Toronto Star on condition of anonymity. “Ever since, the project has been basically held hostage by the Karzai mafia, who are using ‘security concerns’ to stall the work. They are able to put fear in the hearts of the Canadian contractors, telling them ‘There is evil outside the gates that will eat you.’ The longer they delay, the more money the Afghan security teams make. The Canadians have good intentions but that is the reality.”

    SNC Lavalin consortium acts as the lead contractor of the Dahla dam irrigation project.

    About the author

    • Ma. Rizza Leonzon

      As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.