The U.S. Agency for International Development is collaborating with civil society and government officials to help bring about development in Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. “USAID is working in partnership with the Afghan government to support its efforts to build a stable, secure and prosperous country,” Shah said. “President Barack Obama’s strategy in Afghanistan is to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda and to prevent its return - ever. And in Pakistan, consistent with President Obama’s strategy, we are committed to a longer-term development relationship - one that will emerge in greater depth and detail with additional momentum from the Strategic Dialogue.”In Afghanistan, Shah signed a memorandum of understanding to launch a program that aims to enhance local governance in districts across the nation. The USAID chief also noted the implementation of the Afghan First policy, which encourages the procurement of services locally. USAID-backed programs started with hiring 3,000 Afghans, which grew to 26,000 in a year, he said. “A big part of that increase is a transition to larger infrastructure investments, which are more employment-rich in their execution,” Shah said during a press briefing. “But nevertheless, it’s an important transition, I think one that is recognized and appreciated by the Afghan people and their institutions.”Meanwhile, in Pakistan, USAID is looking at shifting its aid priorities “to focus more on energy, water, and agriculture, and larger-scale, really more transformational types of investments that could take us all where we want to go so that 10 or 20 years from now, you could look back and say you started to see these big increases in agricultural value added and productivity because of unique things that were done now,” Shah said. Promoting accountability and monitoring mechanisms will also be embedded in USAID programs for Pakistan to ensure that aid financing is not wasted, Shah said, adding that “we can also build real longstanding Pakistani institutional capacity.”Rebuilding Pakistani institutions will also be a key measure in improving higher education in the country, Shah said. USAID will be partnering with the World Bank and U.K. Department for International Development to enhance access to education, particularly by girls.