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Provincial Teams Securing, Rebuilding Afghanistan

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 18, 2004 – Officials are happy with the progress of 11 provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan and are looking to expand the program throughout the country.

Eleven PRTs are operating in Afghanistan, with a 12th becoming active this week. Coalition partners operate three of these teams. New Zealand and the United Kingdom each operate a team, while Germany runs one under the auspices of NATO, the top American general in Afghanistan said Feb. 17.

Army Lt. Gen. David Barno, commander of Combined Forces Command Afghanistan, explained that a PRT is a catalyst. "It forms a focal point in a particular area with the goal of building not only relationships, but also serving as an accelerator in the rebuilding of the nation and extending the reach of the Afghan central government," he said.

Barno was speaking from Afghanistan via a video teleconference with reporters in the Pentagon. He said officials are working to find a balance between combating remaining terrorists in the country and "aggressively enabling reconstruction."

The PRTs, he said, are the best way to accomplish these two goals. "We recognize that our efforts here must be focused on the people of Afghanistan," Barno said. "And PRTs are a huge part of reaching out to the people."

These teams allow local officials to coordinate with coalition leaders, United Nations representatives and aid organizations. "Provincial governors and village leaders are learning that where PRTs go, good things follow," Barno said.

As a complementary strategy to the PRTs, officials are implementing "regional development zones." These zones differ from PRTs in that the development zones encompass a wider geographic area. The purpose of the zones is to coordinate the efforts of local and international organizations within each region.

Barno explained that officials had been trying to coordinate all international aid, coalition activity, and Afghan central government influence out of Kabul, Afghanistan's capital. These RDZs will move this coordination to the individual zones.

"The RDZ concept came out of the recognition that the most effective integration to get synergy, to get the whole being more than the sum of the parts, had to happen in the provinces, on the ground, face to face, with all these actors sitting down around a table and discussing how the efforts could be integrated and deconflicted to create the most powerful effect in support of the Afghan government," Barno said.

Officials noted that the first such zone has been established around Kandahar, the traditional seat of power for the Taliban.

The general said that outside security reconstruction is the most important mission for coalition forces in Afghanistan. "We and our coalition partners here continue to work very closely with the government of Afghanistan to ensure a more stable and secure future for the Afghan people."

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