Civilian-military Partnership Aids Helmand Progress

WASHINGTON, Jan. 25, 2011 — While progress remains frag­ile in Afghanistan’s Hel­mand province, a civil­ian-mil­i­tary part­ner­ship is help­ing the Afghan peo­ple there make strides in gov­er­nance, the judi­cial sys­tem, police effec­tive­ness and edu­ca­tion, a senior offi­cial involved in the effort said today.

Michael O’Neill, Great Britain’s senior rep­re­sen­ta­tive in south­ern Afghanistan and the head of the civ­il-mil­i­tary mis­sion, has trav­eled to 11 dis­tricts in Hel­mand since he arrived there in October. 

Good progress has tak­en place thanks to provin­cial Gov. Moham­mad Gulab Man­gal, coali­tion forces and the provin­cial recon­struc­tion team],” O’Neill told Pen­ta­gon reporters in a video tele­con­fer­ence from Camp Leatherneck. 

Helmand’s provin­cial recon­struc­tion team is made up of 200 peo­ple from eight nations who are spe­cial­ists in devel­op­ment, diplo­ma­cy, polic­ing, law, local gov­ern­ment, edu­ca­tion and agri­cul­ture. O’Neill said progress in gov­er­nance is vis­i­ble in the provin­cial cap­i­tal of Lashkar Gah, as well as in Geresk and, increas­ing­ly, in places such as Mar­ja, Khan­ishin and Naw Zad. 

The growth in gov­er­nance can be seen in “bet­ter struc­tures and sys­tems put in place, with more staff [and] more resilience,” O’Neill said. 

O’Neill and the Unit­ed King­dom-led recon­struc­tion team work with Region­al Com­mand South­west in estab­lish­ing gov­er­nance and secu­ri­ty across the province. 

“There are a lot more schools open now than there were 12 months ago, [and] more kids in schools, includ­ing girls,” he said. He added that oth­er efforts also have paid off, such as Mangal’s work in coun­ternar­cotics and a 37 per­cent reduc­tion in pop­py cul­ti­va­tion in the last two years. 

“You’re see­ing a lot of pos­i­tives here,” O’Neill said, adding that he believes it’s a result of Mangal’s polit­i­cal lead­er­ship and improve­ments in secu­ri­ty and free­dom of move­ment, Afghan army and police forces, and what he termed as a “very close part­ner­ship” with coali­tion troops from the Unit­ed States, Unit­ed King­dom, Den­mark and Estonia. 

Con­di­tions remain frag­ile, O’Neill said, because Afghan and coali­tion forces con­tin­ue to come under attack. 

“Afghanistan is one of the very poor­est coun­tries in the world,” he said. “It’s suf­fered from 30 years of con­flict. So it’s not sur­pris­ing that the progress is hard to achieve, and it’s going to take more time.” 

The chal­lenge for 2011, he said, involves con­sol­i­dat­ing and deep­en­ing the progress that has tak­en place over the last 12 to 18 months. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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