Farah PRT helps maintain peace, stability in Afghanistan PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt American Forces Network Afghanistan   
Friday, 17 October 2008

081002_F_7383P_001.jpgBAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (Oct. 8, 2008) – The men and women of the Farah Provincial Reconstruction Team call one of America’s most remote military outposts home. More than 430,000 local people also call the vastness of this province home. Together, the people of Farah and the people of the PRT are working feverishly to make life better for all in one of Afghanistan’s most austere regions.

Farah is no stranger to the destructive ravages of war. After 28 years of continual strife including a long Soviet occupation, civil war and harsh Taliban rule, the people are tired and weary – yet anxious to rebuild.

Moving peace and stability forward is no easy task given the harsh surroundings and inhospitable conditions of the farthest reaches of Western Afghanistan. But, under the watchful eye of Navy Cmdr. Shoshana Chatfield, the Farah PRT is making impressive strides and drastically improving the lives of people here.

Chatfield explained how the PRT works along three main lines of operation. “We’re helping maintain security, helping increase the capacity of local government, and helping with reconstruction and development.”

 The most important thing the Farah PRT does is connect the people with their own government, she said.

“Helping strengthen the systems, services and the offices that exist within the provincial government are what’s essential to our mission,” Chatfield said.

Farah’s provincial Governor Azadi Roohul Amin outlined what he believes to be the most tangible benefits for the people of Farah.

“I want to focus on water projects, roads and electricity for Farah province,” he said.

Amin has worked hard to reach the position of governor. He was educated in Afghanistan until 1980 when his family fled to Pakistan. During his time as a refugee in Pakistan, Amin said he contemplated things that might help his country recover from years of war.

The governor feels his visions of improved infrastructure in Farah are essential to the long-term peace and stability in the region.

“The completion of these projects will improve conditions in the health, education, security and business sectors,” he said.

The Farah PRT directly supports the governor’s objectives and lends a hand at every opportunity.

“In some cases it’s not reconstruction, but rather construction,” Chatfield said. “Many things are being built from nothing.”

Chatfield and her civil military operations staff recently traveled to village of Khormeleq with Amin to meet with elders to discuss work on a PRT road improvement project and a water dam.

“The governor was eager to hear their concerns and will shape these projects to meet their needs,” Chatfield said.

Education is seen as the most far-reaching strategic priority by the provincial government. The Director of Education, Atiqullah, is charged with this element of Farah’s recovery.

“Education in Afghanistan will become grafted with the education all over the world,” he said. “We will see much progress here and that will require our educational system to match other countries of the progressive world.”

One of many unique programs undertaken by the Farah PRT is the construction of a $1.2 million Center for Excellence in the village of Nan Gab. According to Army Lt. Col. James Campbell, civil military operations center leader, the school is essentially a university for higher learning, or what can be called a madrassa.

“This institution will be localized to Farah,” Campbell explained. “We want to give students an opportunity to stay here which not only helps strengthen Western Afghanistan now, but far into the future.”

There are other collateral benefits, he said. “A school this large will also generate some localized economic activity.”

Campbell and his team don’t stop at road and school construction.

“We currently have about 30 various projects we’re actively coordinating with,” he said, adding that he works closely with other development partners such as the US Army Corps of Engineers, United States Agency for International Development and the United States Department of Agriculture.

“We all work toward a better Farah and a sound investment for the generations to come.” Campbell said. “What we’re doing is trying to reverse nearly 30 years of atrophy in education and infrastructure here.”

Security and soldiering is the responsibility of the PRT security forces and soldiers such as Spc. Abram Wright of C Company, 3rd Battalion 103rd Infantry Brigade, Pennsylvania National Guard.

“We support the mission by making sure everything is safe, which allows the PRT to get more of their work done,” Wright said.

“These PRT missions really help the people out and let us get a lot of face time with the villagers, which builds better relations,” Wright said. “We really like being out here. Just by looking around and being visible, we’re showing the people we want to keep them safe and be their friends.”

Capt. Jeffrey Simmons works daily to build trust and productive relationships with villages across the vast Farah province. As a humanitarian assistance administrator, he administers a work for food program.

“Instead of creating a welfare program we’re encouraging community participation in projects that need to be done and that they identify,” Simmons said.

In a recent visit to the village of Masow, Simmons’ team partnered with the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police to deliver promised stoves and staples to more than 60 workers.

“These people cleaned up debris in the Shaqamamood canal to get ready for the coming snowmelt runoff,” he explained. “They did an excellent job with this tough project which will pay dividends later. It gives them hope and opportunity by taking an active ownership of their village.”

Chatfield’s passion and enthusiasm for her team’s job is contagious.

“I truly believe in the mission of the PRT,” she said. “It’s pretty clear that guns alone aren’t going to create peace and stability in Afghanistan. The infrastructure of this country has to be strengthened and we can help.”

Despite the harsh living conditions, the Farah team is exceptionally motivated and upbeat.

“There’s a lot of personal payback in what we do, but some of it is a little bittersweet because we invest a lot of ourselves in the relationship here,” Chatfield said. “And, it won’t all be finished while we’re here this year and maybe not next year. So, we have to carry that unfinished business around with us when we leave. But we’ll also carry the pride of accomplishment.”

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