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LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – It isn’t an environmental program, but the “Go Green” initiative is helping Afghanistan’s government grow.
The program, initiated in Laghman province by International Security Assistance Forces last year, is designed to reduce insurgent activity and assist communities who try to stop the violence.
The Afghan government now administers “Go Green” and is expanding the program in the east, rating villages in accordance with how much they cooperate with security efforts, officials said.
“We’re just enabling the process,” U.S. Army Maj. Alan W. Gilman of Old Saybrook, Conn., the civil military operations officer in charge for Task Force Iron Gray, said. “Ultimately what [Afghan government officials] think is most important is most important.”
“Go Green” uses three categories – green, amber and red – to indicate the level of cooperation the communities are providing. A fourth color, violet, is used when not enough information is available about a village.
Rather than simply provide all villages with development and investment, officials said only those with a “green” rating are allowed government-sponsored projects.
“It rewards the good villages who work with, and through, the government,” U.S. Army Capt. Chadwick S. Lester of Shreveport, La., a civil affairs team leader with Laghman Provincial Reconstruction Team, said. “Those who don’t use the government don’t get rewarded.”
To achieve a green rating, militant forces can’t live in the village, leaders and mullahs cannot advocate violence against the government and there can’t be any attacks from the community against Afghan National Security Forces or ISAF. Once approved to be green, the village leaders sign a contract agreeing to those terms.
Mehtar Lam Mayor Mokim, whose city is the capital of Laghman province, said in an interview that under the previous system, many militants were using public development for their own gain.
“The enemy were benefitting from those projects,” he said.
If strangers conduct attacks from the village and residents attempt to warn ANSF or ISAF, the community’s status is not penalized. Villagers are not expected to take up arms against militants, ISAF officials said.
“They can’t help it if people come over the mountains from Pakistan, but it does work against them if they don’t report it,” Lester said.
If there are attacks with no warnings, the village is immediately designated red, which means no development and no government support. Red villages can upgrade their status through improved cooperation over time.
Sub governors, in consultation with security forces, set designations during regular meetings. In turn, green villages nominate representatives to community district councils, which then determines which local leaders will serve on District Development Authorities.
These district authorities help decide which projects are done for their communities and manage them through completion. Gilman said the process is kept in the public eye through radio broadcasts, letting Afghan residents know about specific projects – their dates, budgets and plans.
Public awareness is an important part of the program, informing residents and helping them understand how it works, as well as reducing the chances of corruption, he said.
“There are no secrets … They hold each other accountable,” Gilman said. “If you don’t show the results, the people aren’t going to support this.”
ISAF patrols often conduct meetings with village leaders during their patrols, talking to them about the “Go Green” program and making sure they know who their district representatives are.
Since March, Task Force Iron Gray has seen the number of green villages more than triple to 175 in Laghman province. Red villages have increased only slightly – from 110 to 128 – as more information was gathered from communities previously unrated, Gilman said.
He said security, development and government-building are all related. In addition to empowering the local representatives and government, the program will also ensure residents are personally invested in progress.
“That’s going to help bring security,” Gilman said. “That’s going to help bring development.”
One example of this development is the city of Mehtar Lam's Bagasarach Canal repair project. The $64,700 effort will rehabilitate the canal, improving safety and sanitation, while also increasing economic opportunities for local businesses and farmers.
The city's water delivery system irrigates land that supports hundreds of families and allows farmers to produce wheat, rice, potatoes and other crops.
Mokim said most of the public support security, and noted the province has continued to improve its safety.
“The good thing is that most of the people are helping us,” he said.
Other communities in the area have seen the construction and renovation of mosques, protective walls and new schools, among other projects.
Lester’s civil affairs team continues to meet with villages in their area of responsibility at least once a month to help keep the process going and encourage residents to help themselves by taking part.
“It’s all village dependant,” Lester said. “If the village wants to be green and they make the effort to go green, they usually go green.”
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