All politics is local, even in Nangarhar Province.
BY ANN MARLOWE
Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan
“This is an Afghan process,” Lt. Col. Gordon Phil lips began, “and I am here to make sure it goes smoothly. But the decisions are not mine. They are yours.” A dozen members of this province’s Provincial Council or Shura listened carefully as the interpreter translated into their native Pashto.
Phillips, the commander of the Nangarhar Provincial Reconstruction Team, or PRT, continued: “Don’t think about money. Think about what you will need five years from now, about your children, and your grandchildren. I have other money, emergency money, which I can and will use if appropriate. Think about what Nangarhar needs.”
For the first time in Afghan history, Afghans are about to set spending priorities for their localities, rather than accepting the crumbs that a king, warlord, or Kabul-appointed governor condescends to allow them. This process of writing Provincial Development Plans, which Lt. Col. Phillips described to the council members, has been going on throughout Afghanistan this July and August, and it promises to correct some of the more egregious failures of American aid here. At the least, it will put to rest the frequent charges–some warranted, some not–that we are giving the Afghans what we think they need rather than what they think they need, and listening to bureaucrats in Kabul rather than the people who will actually use the roads, bridges, dams, and irrigation channels being built. (more…)