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Team Brings Progress to Afghanistan's Ghazni Province

By Sgt. Stephanie L. Carl, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Aug. 27, 2004 – In many regions of Afghanistan, provincial reconstruction teams are helping the people rebuild their war-torn country.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Soldiers from the Ghazni provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan talk with villagers in the province. The PRT establishes relationships with the local citizens, furthering the coalition's reach in the area. Photo by Sgt. Stephanie L. Carl, USA

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

It's the same in Ghazni province. Coalition soldiers, joined by a representative from the U.S. Agency for International Development and a representative from the Afghan national government's Ministry of the Interior, are working together to make improvements across the province.

"We currently have 64 (Commander's Emergency Relief Program) projects in progress," said Lt. Col. Steven J. Ford, Ghazni PRT commander. "We've completed about 90 projects in the last seven months."

These projects range from rebuilding schools and hospitals, to paving roads, digging wells and building a library that now boasts more than 1,000 volumes. The PRT also donates supplies to establishments, including schools, hospitals and orphanages.

"We've spent around $5 million this fiscal year," said Allen Nugent, Ghazni PRT's USAID representative. USAID is an organization that provides funding for development in countries around the world.

The PRT isn't just there for the reconstruction efforts, however. It also plays a great role in establishing a link among the coalition, the Afghan national government and the local nationals.

"We are a nonlethal weapon system," said Maj. Scott C. Ford, Ghazni PRT's Civil Military Operations Center commander. "We engage the target audience and develop strong working relationships with the people in the area." One of the strong working relationships the team has developed is with the local government. "We facilitate communication between the (Afghan) government organizations and the military," said the PRT commander.

With this communication, the PRT is helping the rest of the coalition win the war on terror.

"The people here are starting to see that we're here to do good," said Sgt. Daniel Toleno, Ghazni PRT engineer. "We've had situations where the locals have detained (suspicious) people because we helped them with projects," keeping at least one more anti-coalition militant from hindering the process of establishing a safer, more stable Afghanistan.

Toleno is assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 367th Engineer Battalion, U.S. Army Reserve, but is currently working with Company C, 367th Engineer Battalion. Much of his time is spent interacting with the local population, especially the contractors who are hired to complete PRT projects. His position requires him to monitor the contractors, but he also has the opportunity to impart his knowledge as an engineer.

"Every time I'm on a site I have the opportunity to talk to the contractors and find out what tools and equipment they think will make their job easier," said Toleno. "I also do my best to help them find improved ways of doing things with the materials they have. They're learning to explore better options."

By helping the local population to develop in any way they can, the PRT is building strong bonds with their neighbors in Ghazni. "We're here to facilitate enduring security, galvanize the Afghan people and assist with reconstruction," said the PRT commander.

The PRT reaches its goals of stability and reconstruction one project and one conversation at a time.

(Army Sgt. Stephanie L. Carl is assigned to the 17th Public Affairs Detachment.)

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