Governance, Development Efforts Continue in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, Aug. 18, 2011 — Cor­rup­tion and insur­gent vio­lence remain seri­ous issues, but Afghan com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers and lead­ers are strength­en­ing their local gov­ern­ments “from the bot­tom up,” a senior Defense Depart­ment civil­ian serv­ing in Afghanistan said today.

Alisa Stack, Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force Joint Command’s deputy chief of staff for sta­bil­i­ty oper­a­tions, briefed Pen­ta­gon reporters by video uplink from the command’s head­quar­ters in the Afghan cap­i­tal of Kab­ul.

Stack has served in her cur­rent posi­tion since fall 2009, when ISAF’s Joint Com­mand was formed. She is respon­si­ble for syn­chro­niz­ing secu­ri­ty plans and oper­a­tions with nation­al and provin­cial plans for gov­er­nance and devel­op­ment.

“I’m focused on local gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives and work for those respon­si­ble for pro­vid­ing dai­ly sup­port to Afghan cit­i­zens,” she said.

Stack said the com­mand, known as IJC, not only brings togeth­er coali­tion mem­bers and Afghan part­ners, but also coor­di­nates with oth­er gov­ern­men­tal agen­cies and non­govern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions work­ing to improve con­di­tions in Afghanistan.

“I can ver­i­fy that our part­nered efforts have brought about some tru­ly remark­able achieve­ments,” she said. Exam­ples of con­crete progress in gov­er­nance and devel­op­ment can be found in many areas, she added.

“In Hel­mand province, the secu­ri­ty sit­u­a­tion has improved suf­fi­cient­ly that work is now under way to add jus­tice cen­ters in Mar­ja, Nad Ali [and] Gereshk, expand­ing on the suc­cess of the province’s ini­tial cen­ter in Lashkar Gah,” Stack said.

Com­ple­ment­ing that work, the Afghan Inde­pen­dent Human Rights Com­mis­sion recent­ly held the first month­ly dis­trict out­reach shu­ra — a com­mu­ni­ty coun­cil — in Nad Ali, Stack said, while the Kab­ul-based non­govern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tion Women for Afghan Women is con­tract­ed to pro­vide civ­il law, women’s rights and fam­i­ly coun­sel­ing train­ing through­out Hel­mand province.

Kan­da­har res­i­dents are see­ing sim­i­lar progress, as their provin­cial lead­ers begin work on a com­pre­hen­sive health strat­e­gy and imple­men­ta­tion plan, Stack said.

“Orches­trat­ed by the Kan­da­har Depart­ment of Pub­lic Health, the strat­e­gy will ben­e­fit from input from a num­ber of munic­i­pal depart­ments, Kan­da­har Uni­ver­si­ty, the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion and [the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment], among oth­ers,” she added.

Stack said progress in infra­struc­ture and eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment is evi­dent in Hel­mand, where a new busi­ness park is more than half com­plete, and in Mazar-e Sharif, where a com­bined U.S.-German mil­i­tary effort pro­vides elec­tric­i­ty for a grow­ing indus­tri­al park.

“Last month, sev­en areas around the coun­try under­went a peace­ful, suc­cess­ful tran­si­tion of secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty from ISAF to the Afghan gov­ern­ment,” she said. “As secu­ri­ty improves across the coun­try and more provinces tran­si­tion and assume their own con­trol, each will … require tai­lored solu­tions to imple­ment good gov­er­nance and effec­tive devel­op­ment at the provin­cial, dis­trict and munic­i­pal lev­els.”

U.S. and coali­tion force struc­tures must adapt to reflect those evolv­ing pri­or­i­ties, she said, with close coor­di­na­tion among provin­cial recon­struc­tion teams, civ­il agen­cies, the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty and non­govern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions.

While such assis­tance is essen­tial to help­ing Afghans devel­op gov­ern­ment and devel­op­ment capac­i­ty, Stack said, “ulti­mate­ly, Afghanistan’s suc­cess in this coun­terin­sur­gency must come from a capa­ble gov­ern­ment at all lev­els that can be trust­ed by the Afghan peo­ple.”

That gov­ern­ment must be real, it must be fair and just, and above all, it must serve the needs and the will of the peo­ple, she said.

Cor­rup­tion is a con­cern Afghans in and out of gov­ern­ment have expressed to her repeat­ed­ly, Stack said.

“It is a seri­ous prob­lem, and it’s one that the Afghan gov­ern­ment and we are tak­ing very seri­ous­ly,” she said.

IJC has exam­ined its own busi­ness prac­tices and direct­ed the region­al com­mands and oth­ers to take an “Afghan-first approach,” look­ing for direct agree­ments with Afghan busi­ness­es in hir­ing and con­tract­ing, Stack said.

“We are tak­ing it very seri­ous­ly,” she added. “We do take a holis­tic approach to it. And I think one of the strongest things that we’ve done is change how we work, and that has a very strong effect then on the Afghan mar­ket and on the expec­ta­tions of the Afghan peo­ple.”

Insur­gent attacks on gov­ern­ment offi­cials and Afghan civil­ians are “absolute­ly a con­cern” for Afghan gov­ern­ment and ISAF offi­cials, Stack said, but recent inci­dents also high­light the nation’s grow­ing capa­bil­i­ty.

Fol­low­ing an Aug. 14 attack in which six sui­cide bombers killed at least 22 peo­ple dur­ing a raid on the Par­wan governor’s com­plex, Stack said, “the Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces react­ed very well … with min­i­mal sup­port from us.”

With­in hours, the Afghan gov­ern­ment and pri­vate orga­ni­za­tions were work­ing to repair dam­age to the provin­cial cen­ter, she said.

“The gov­er­nor remained work­ing through­out that day, and is work­ing today,” she added.

While IJC does not lead the effort, Stack said, sev­er­al coali­tion mem­bers and USAID are work­ing to train civ­il ser­vants and local offi­cials. The Admin­is­tra­tive Reform and Civ­il Ser­vice Com­mis­sion, through the U.S. gov­ern­ment and USAID and with spon­sor­ship from the Afghan Civ­il Ser­vice Insti­tute, has trained 16,000 civ­il ser­vants nation­wide, she not­ed.

“Ger­many just start­ed a pro­gram that’s focused on devel­op­ing provin­cial coun­cils … to under­stand what it means to rep­re­sent a con­stituen­cy, how you run a coun­cil meet­ing — just the order for min­utes, for notes, for fol­low-up,” she said.

Italy has tak­en sim­i­lar efforts in the west, and the Unit­ed King­dom has a provin­cial recon­struc­tion team in Hel­mand part­ner­ing direct­ly with local offi­cials, she added.

The Afghan gov­ern­ment and people’s per­for­mance this sum­mer and last shows resilience and per­sis­tence, Stack said, as well as “the desire for com­pe­tent admin­is­tra­tion, to be com­pe­tent admin­is­tra­tors, and to have con­trol over gov­er­nance in their area.”

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