United States Institute of Peace Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Iraq/ Provincial Reconstruction Teams: Lessons Learned


Interviewed by: Charles Cecil Interview date: January 12, 2011 Copyright 2011 USIP & ADST


Participant’s Understanding of the PRT Mission

The interviewee, a U.S. Department of Agriculture employee, was the agricultural advisor at PRT Chaghcharan in Ghowr province, Afghanistan, from January 2010 to December 2010. His international PRT was staffed by eight countries under Lithuanian leadership. His role was to build the capacity of Afghan agricultural officials, to help establish an agricultural extension service, and to provide assistance to Afghan farmers.

Relationship with Local Nationals

Observations: The interviewee’s relations with Afghan nationals were “rather good.” Contacts were mostly with the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock, usually centering on weekly visits to the ministry’s district offices. Initially it took some time for his Afghan counterparts to understand that the interviewee did not have access to funds to use for development projects, but eventually they accepted him as a valuable source of training, both for members of the extension service and for farmers themselves. Other contacts were with the district agricultural high school, where he worked to teach training methodology to the teachers of the school through weekly visits.

Insights: The Afghan concept of time and the importance attached to an appointment as a promise to meet are very different than in our culture.

Did the PRT Achieve its Mission? (Impact)

Observations: Educated Afghans working for the PRT were constantly hired away at higher salaries by NGOs. Afghan officials were also frequently rotated or replaced. There were four directors of agriculture during the interviewee’s 12 months. Such personnel turbulence made it difficult to maintain momentum in the work of the PRT. But the mere presence of the PRT helped to reduce local internecine conflicts which in turn allowed some small projects to be accomplished, including building two high schools, improving the hospital and undertaking some road repairs.

1 Insights: Reinforcement through follow-up visits by other advisers would be very helpful in ensuring that the skills that were taught are perpetuated.

Overall Strategy for Accomplishing the PRT Mission (Planning)

Observations: The U.S. component of the PRT had its own plan, but the interviewee is not aware of any larger plan for the PRT as a whole. Since it was Lithuanian-led, this was partly a language issue. Rule of law, small development projects, and agricultural extension advice were the U.S. component's main activities, with occasional public diplomacy work. The interviewee never received guidance from the embassy. Once a week the civilian members of the PRT met with the military members to coordinate activities for the next week. There was also a daily meeting to deal with transport issues for the following day. There was also a weekly meeting to review the security situation.

Insights: Being on the outlook for other, non-USG sources of funding can enable a PRT member to facilitate activities that we ourselves cannot fund. The interviewee saw that the Japanese had financial resources and were interested in building schools. So when he learned that the agricultural high school was leasing its facilities he brought the two sides together and the Japanese agreed to fund the building of a new agricultural high school.

What Worked Well and What Did Not? (Operations)

Observations: Language can be a big obstacle at an international PRT. Some members know little or no English. International turn-over is rapid; some members stay six months, some only four. Younger international officers usually responded negatively to requests, for fear of taking risk; requests usually had to be made to more senior officers to get a positive response. Information flowed well between other USDA advisers in- country and to USDA in Washington. Aside from that, there was no noticeable communication from other USG sources. The interviewee felt that USAID officers were often fixated on launching and completing projects during their own tour and did not give adequate consideration to whether an activity was sustainable by the Afghanis. He felt that USAID placed insufficient emphasis on capacity-building and training. Pre-departure training in the U.S. was good, except that it is aimed at those going to American-led PRTs and thus some training did not apply to the interviewee who was assigned to an international PRT. Since about one-third of the Afghanistan PRTs are internationally led, this situation must be common and should be addressed.

Insights: If assigned to an international PRT, find the Danes and get to know them since their armed forces are experienced in international deployments, are easy to work with and speak excellent English. Sometimes a PRT’s bringing public attention to a situation - - the case of an abused woman is cited -- can achieve a better, or less bad, result.

Lessons: Do not try to do anything your first two months after arriving. Instead, go to as many meetings as you can, go out of town with anyone who is having meetings, meet people, go to all the briefings you can go to, gather information and then start thinking about what you want to do. The interviewee found that to be the best advice he received.



Q. For starters would you tell us what your assignment was and what period of time did it cover?

A. My assignment was to be the agricultural advisor at PRT Chaghcharan in Ghowr province. I was assigned there from January 9th 2010 to December 30th 2010.

Q. Did you have any previous experience in the region?

A. No.

Q. At the time of your arrival what level of capability in the local language did you have?

A. None.

Q. What is your understanding of the PRT mission? And how did you fit into it?

A. From the standpoint of the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), we were sent to Afghanistan to provide expert advice and to teach, train, mentor, build the capacity of the ministry of agriculture of the Republic of Afghanistan and that was my specific duties and I was a member of a Provincial Reconstruction Team. It is an international provincial reconstruction team, staffed by eight different countries and I was part of the American civilian element in combination with a State Department officer and first one then latter two USAID officers.

Q. Tell us more about the composition of the team.

A. It was run by the Lithuanian military with two Lithuanian civilian advisors. We had military contingents from , , Georgia, and . Then we had EUPOL (European Union Police Mission in Afghanistan) policemen from Romania, , Poland and Finland. Two Japanese civilian advisors, a small American logistical military advisory team, and an American office of, when I got there, two Americans and later it went up to four Americans.

Q. And what were the functions of those four Americans?

A. One was Department of State. One was USDA. Two were USAID.

Q. So tell us again what your particular mission was. And that is going to lead me into a series of questions about your contacts with host country nationals.

A. The USDA provide expert agricultural advice to other U.S. agencies and then our particular mission was to help the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock

3 (MAIL) in Afghanistan create an extension service, basically somewhat similar to the agricultural extension service we have in the US. And to increase their skill levels and increase their levels of cooperation with each other and help them in this mission of providing agricultural assistance to Afghan farmers.

Q. So how would you characterize your relationship with host country nationals?

A. Rather good. Rather good.

Q. Who did you interact with and how often and for what kinds of reasons?

A. The major contact of course was with the provincial and also district elements of the Ministry of Agriculture Irrigation and Livestock. I also would’ve interacted with the Afghan Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Rural Development, Ministry of Irrigation and Electricity, Ministry of Environment at a much lower level of interaction because some of my functions would occasionally cross into theirs.

Q. What kinds of agreements or activities would result from your interactions with them?

A. Well, again my interaction was to provide training and technical assistance. USDA does not have any funds of our own to do any development work, to write any grants and this is an international PRT so there were no U.S. CERP (Commander’s Emergency Response Program) funds involved.

Q. So you had no access to any kind of U.S. government money? Or any other source of funds?

A. None.

Q. In your work with your Afghan counterparts, did they ever undertake commitments or promises to do things?

A. Yes.

Q. And how where they at fulfilling their promises and commitments?

A. They became better over time. It can be…their sense of time and their sense of timeframe for doing things was quite different than in a western sense. Being very structured, we would be and learn very quickly that just because you ask and say “I’ll come back next Tuesday at 10 o’clock” and he writes it down in his book and says “yes”. If you show up the next Tuesday at 10 o’clock he probably won’t be there because you didn’t call him that morning for the appointment. As far as he’s concerned you will call him that day. They plan one day at a time. So they’re very different and it took a little bit of work to get them used to the idea that I wasn’t going to come there with a grant, with any money. But I would like to talk with people and I had training to do with them. I created small technical short lessons basically and we would bring groups in and work on

4 those and share information. Other times we would talk about how they interact with farmers and what they needed and what they needed to do a better job of getting out with their farmers and the kind of problems that their farmers had and they did for the farmers in their province or district.

Q. What would be an example of a lesson?

A. A lesson would be… the last one I did was on storing wheat. That after a farmer harvests his wheat, how does he store it over the winter? And after having visited villages and seeing what they were doing I came up with some suggestions, improvements that were very low tech within the realm of what they could do. Then I created a pictorial set of trainings and then I had also had captions put under them in and I would present these to them and give them copies and encourage them to go out to farmers and try to be able to... then when I would go out to villages, especially the ones close to the district provincial center, get them to come with me so we could do it together. I was unsuccessful at getting them to come up to a village with me.

Q. Why was that?

A. Part of it was they don’t have any vehicles so they couldn’t go anywhere themselves. And then the Lithuanian military was not at all anxious to have Afghans ride in their vehicles so that was not a practical way to do things to share that information with them unfortunately.

Q. What could have made your interaction with Afghan counterparts more productive?

A. I’m not really sure in that sense. Often it was difficult to do things because they didn’t have any power in their buildings, so I learned very quickly I had to make all my own items and they had to be pictorial because even though this was a ministry staff there were still people on the staff who didn’t read their own language terribly well so we had to do things in a very simple way so that would comprehend. Fortunately I had good office facilities, good internet access that made creating these things easy to do. But Ghowr is an exceedingly primitive province with very limited resources.

Q. So it sounds like you turned over what we might call lesson plans and you set examples of how extension advisors might perform their services. What’s your expectation about how well these lessons and materials will be implemented now that you are not there?

A. Not really high. Especially in Ghowr province; even Afghans referred to Ghowr as “behind the times”. As a Kabuli will refer to himself as a “we live in a modern city” and they will talk about Ghowr as a behind-the-times place. Even Afghans didn’t want to go there. In my year-long tenure I had four directors of agriculture because the government would appoint one and they would find a way to leave or one of them just left and he never came back. So I really don’t know where he went. So I had a constant problem with finding someone there. And then over the course of the year, the men who did have

5 university education and training, one by one they were all hired by NGOs and they all left so that by October or November of this year of the original staff there was not one person left on the staff who had a university education.

Q. In your opinion to what extent did your PRT achieve its mission?

A. Well the mere presence of the PRT provided a degree of stability and allowed a great deal of development to happen in the province. Prior to 2004 when the PRT was started the various factions in Ghowr would fight over what welfare was, how it was going to be divided. The PRT was built because of this constant low-level internecine warfare and the PRT’s mere presence provided some security that allowed development to move along. Chaghcharan was growing; there was construction both private and public. The PRT provided a venue to build new police stations in all the districts. We did some roadwork, we rebuilt the bridge over the river, provided the funds to help build the two large high schools in town, the girls high school and the boys high school, many other small projects. We’ve done some improvements to the hospital; lots of good things were done.

Q. Some sound like what we could categorize as short term achievements.

A. Yes, they were all pretty much short term.

Q. Are there things you could label long-term achievements?

A. Not that aware of.

Q. Maybe eleven months is too short…

A. To see that.

Q. What do you think you could have done to improve your impact?

A. Well, with the situation with the department really not very much. What I did do, which I think was my most successful project is, I found out there was an agricultural high school in the province. All of Afghanistan’s provinces are supposed to have an agricultural high school, which does a regular high school education and then has a series of agriculture classes. It’s a boarding school and it’s open to the entire province while a high school in Chaghcharan is open just to boys from that district or girls from the district surrounding the provincial center. So I did a number of programs with the agricultural high school, one being a teacher training with the teachers in the agricultural high school. Then as part of the teacher training I wanted to introduce them to some different ways of teaching and lesson planning and preparation for teaching. So I gave them the lessons. Then I used to actually do some teaching in the high school in a class with the teachers observing me with a chance for me to observe them at a later date, to see if they learned some skills, and there I feel I made a tremendous impact.

Q. Did you have a successor in your position?


A. There is going to be a replacement for me. I understand he has not arrived in country yet.

Q. So you had no opportunity to provide guidance or suggestions?

A. No.

Q. Do you think the situation on the ground today is any closer than it was when you arrived to the day when U.S. or international presence will no longer be required?

A. Yes. Ghowr, despite the strongmen arguing and occasionally fighting somewhat, is a relatively peaceful place. In all ten of the districts there is a district governor, there is a full staff of civil servants in the various line ministries and there is ANP (Afghan National Police) present in all of the districts of the province. It’s certainly not a perfect place by any means and it certainly needs to get better but compared to many other provinces in Afghanistan it is much farther along the path than most.

Q. How would you describe the degree of local buy-in to the things you were trying to do?

A. At the education side I think the buy-in was pretty good. I believe that some of my accomplishments are sustainable and will move forward. I introduced some ideas to teachers and then my last State Department direct representative and I, we worked together at the teachers training center to provide some… basically the same kind of things, some continuing education opportunities for teacher and then to urge and demonstrate to teachers the value of continuing to improve themselves rather than just going through their… In Afghanistan you can graduate from high school, then go to the teachers training center for 90 days, and then you’re prepared to be a teacher. There are many teachers who didn’t ever graduate from high school who go through it because there is a shortage of teachers so they will accept a number of people with just a secondary education.

Q. What’s the most critical component involved in enabling a positive transition so that the Afghan counterparts can carry on your activities after you’re gone?

A. If there could be follow-up from an advisor that would by far be the best. But I think certainly in the areas of education there were very good impacts there. They see some new things that they wouldn’t have seen before. At the MAIL (Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock) side of things, until they can get a better staff, put some professional people in the department, MAIL, that’s the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, in Ghowr province is not a terribly useful, I mean functional, ministry.

Q. What was the overall strategy for accomplishing the PRT mission?

7 A. I’m not really sure. Being a Lithuanian-run PRT with the language issues and their planning… I really don’t know if the entire PRT had a plan. I know what the US office, what we tried to do but really can’t speak of a plan for the PRT.

Q. Yeah, it sounds like a challenging environment. Well how would you describe the relationship between your own level of planning and higher echelons in the hierarchy?

A. Well within the PRT the civilian element we all met along with the S9 (military logistics) and the S2 (military intelligence) and S3 (military planning) on Saturdays. We would coordinate all of our activities together. The Japanese advisors were primarily concerned with building schools and then secondarily working with the public health sector. The Lithuanians and their two people were primarily concerned with small infrastructure project such as culverts, and wells in villages. Their largest single project was doing some improvements at the hospital in Chaghcharan. At the US office our three major areas were number one rule of law, which was a State Department function. There was the USAID side. They had a number of small projects but when I arrived there they had no funds either. They were predominantly just working with, kind of overseeing the national projects and doing a few small public diplomacy grants. When the QRF funds, Quick Response Funds, became available through the embassy they did some additional projects. QRF funds were not to be used for agricultural work. So we all tried to cooperate to make our efforts go forward and to use limited assets when we needed to get out so they were available to us but as far as an overall mission… didn’t. As far guidance from the embassy, I never received guidance from the embassy.

Q. What was the process for coordinating activities between the military and the civilian members of the PRT?

A. Every day at 4:30 there was a planning meeting which basically just concerned just rides, getting escorts out of the PRT to go places. Once a week on Tuesdays we had a meeting where we looked at the following week’s activities or our wishes and sort of all sat down and presented a rough plan to PRT and this would cover the whole week and give a little farther picture specially if there was going to be a patrol that was going to go out to one of the villages or farther. Than we needed to sort of bid for the seats, there were only three civilian seats, so one went to the Japanese, one always went to the Lithuanians so that left one seat for the Americans to figure out who would get to go.

Q. What kind of contact did you have with international organizations or NGOs?

A. Not much. They were only interested in people who had money and since I didn’t have any money, none of them wanted to see me.

Q. You made your own plan. How did you engage Afghan nationals in that plan?

A. Well my primary goal was to work with the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock. So I always planned a weekly trip to their office except the times I knew there was no one there, and then I wouldn’t plan anything. Then I always planed a weekly trip

8 to the agricultural high school. I would usually also go to the Ministry of Education once a week and I wanted to make sure that my activities and the work there that I kept the ministry involved and informed. I didn't want any surprises. And above all I wanted to protect the principal of the school, I didn’t want anyone to think he was you know… I wanted to be able to compliment him up to his superiors so as to maintain the good relationship I had, and then the rest would depend on projects I was working on. I did assist the Ministry of the Environment on a tree planting project. They wanted some assistance on training people to plant trees for flood control along the river and in beautification shade trees in town. And I provided some assistance to them on the technical side on that. Then amongst ourselves it was often the case there were meetings the U.S. office had to attend such as provincial council meeting or disaster management committee. When people were on leave or people had rotated out and the replacement hadn’t arrived the two of us remaining would have to sit down and see that these critical meetings were covered. Occasionally I would have to go to disaster management or the provincial council meeting and basically be a note-taker and write a report for the colleague whose responsibility it was so he wouldn’t lose the information and could quickly get up to speed when he returned.

Q. You’ve already told us you didn’t have access to funds, nevertheless the question on my list is how did you take resources into account in your own planning? Now resources can also mean host nation capability and expertise and things like that.

A. Well, oh yes. Well one of the things that I am proudest of is the agricultural high school does not have a permanent building; they are using leased space. And through my initial work there I was able to interest the Japanese office and bring them out and through a series of meetings the Japanese have committed to building a permanent agricultural high school in Chaghcharan. Which I think is a great example of finding someone with resources and finding someone in need and bringing them together, being a facilitator in this case rather than directly making it happen myself. So that’s probably my best example of using resources.

Q. How did you get knowledge of the political situation and of the security situation that you needed to carry out your work?

A. Well the PRT had a security briefing once a week that was for the entire camp. It was done once in Lithuanian and once in English, so I always went to the English one. And then our S9er was a Lithuanian ISAF. Two of those officers where I was were Danish and they had beautiful English. So I learned very quickly they had some of their own vehicles so I worked very closely with them and offered my services to them on their trips outside and they were anxious to have someone with agricultural skills come along so I often was able to go to a village with them so now I had my escort and I had the ability to get places and then I would go do some work in these villages. It assisted me on getting an agricultural survey done because one of the things USDA wanted me to do is… we never had anyone in Ghowr before so I built up a database so to speak, an overview of what was the agricultural situation in Ghowr. What are the crops? How long is the growing season? Livestock? What are the resources? Collecting all this information

9 for the future and above all reporting back to the system. I could do that by getting out. I did a couple of very simple pictorial trainings on things like identifying potato bugs because everyone has potato gardens, no commercial production but small plots so I looked for common problems in potatoes. I worked in the potato industry in the past and I would present short little 10 to 15 minute pictorial training lessons to these villagers about these kinds of subjects. It was useful for the village, it was fun and enjoyable for me plus it helped our military side as well.

Q. What was your specialty in agriculture before you went out there?

A. Well I have a degree in agronomy and a degree in soil science. Then I have work experience, many years of experience in agribusiness. I have worked in the agrochemical business, in the fertilizer business, in the seed business. I was in the flour business, I sold wheat seed for the flour mill as well as helped to buy wheat for the flour mill, so I have a lot of experience in this and then I farmed myself. I fed cattle for a number of years so. That’s my background. I just joined the USDA in 2005.

Q. Before you went out to Afghanistan, I presume you had some training. To what extent do you think that training adequately prepared you for your mission?

A. It was very good. Overall I was very impressed with the classes at FSI (Foreign Service Institute). The eight days at (Camp) Atterbury (training center). The class work, I thought was very useful. The only area that it really didn’t cover is, all the classes that I attended here were really all focused on working on an American run PRT. And it wasn’t until I arrived in Afghanistan that I was informed I was going to an International PRT.

Q. Why is that?

A. I don’t know. That’s my experience; I can’t speak on anything else.

Q. Do you have any idea how many PRT are headed by foreign forces?

A. I believe there’s 13 PRTs that are international.

Q. So the chances are reasonably high? That someone else…

A. Yeah. Just over a third of the PRTs are. And in the past we did not… there was usually a State Department person at the international PRTs but that’s all. And then, it’s been only, as I understand in the last couple of years that they began first an AID person and then in 2010 for the first time USDA people were sent to the international PRTs.

Q. We have some questions under the heading of operations. What worked well? And what where the major impediments to your mission in your day-to-day activities?

A. First of all just going to an international PRT changes things in the sense that … based upon the people in the training here and the people I talked to who had been in PRTs

10 before, the planning process and specially interacting with your international staff can be a bit more of a challenge. Language issues can be a big issue; the international people serve a much shorter tour. Some of them only four months, some of them six months, so that there’s a lot more turnover of people and you’re always kind of rebuilding relationships. English is often a problem. The biggest group in the middle, very few of them had good English so doing anything even within the camp took a lot of time because you had to explain what you wanted to do more than once. Very often with some of the international contingents they just didn’t understand our mission very well. And you had to consistently work with them to get anything and they would often say no. And I think they’d say no simply because they were afraid to take the responsibility and I learned very quickly that the captains always said no and you had to go up the chain of command and get a major or the chief of staff, lieutenant colonel, to ask something. Because to the captains and lieutenants the answer was always no. Always. They would never make a decision, they wouldn’t. They wanted someone above them to tell them it was ok. They would never ask for you. You had to always go above them and ask again and have their superior tell them it was ok. The only exception being the Danish guys who were very easy to work with. And all of them had tremendous foreign experience from their army. Many of them that I worked with it was their tenth, eleventh, twelfth foreign deployment for the Danish Army. So they were all very experienced. Easy to ask them… and I learned very quickly to use them as a tool to get other things done. Because number one they all had great English and they would help you, they became good implementers for me. That was probably the biggest challenging thing there and it could be little things like getting an ISAF ID card. Took me three months to get an ISAF ID card because one of the captains in the in the first PRT said “you don’t need one. You’re a civilian” and that was it. I mean he refused to consider it after that and I had to finally go up and get the lieutenant colonel in the camp to agree to get me an ID card. They wouldn’t give me one.

Q. Could that function be handled in the embassy?

A. I would have thought so. But to them it was absolute impossibility. And the card had to come from their camp.

Q. And how did not having one hamper you?

A. Well for example if I wanted to file a trip report to go someplace or do something you had to do that at the TOC (tactical operations center) and without an ID card you couldn’t get in the TOC. So you couldn’t get in without an ID card, so I had to have someone take me in. And finally I got that. Also I was really concerned if we ever needed to get in the camp. I mean, you had immediate access with an ISAF ID card. In other words, we would have to have this card with my picture on it which said “civilian access to the PRT”. And I always felt it would be better to have an ISAF card just in case. I finally got one but that’s the kind of thing you really have to struggle with, those kinds of little things. As far as best practices, I mean working outside… I mean probably the biggest thing I would say to anyone when you come to a PRT, and I was told this here and I found this to be very true. That your first two months when you arrive don’t really try to

11 do anything. What you need to do is go to as many meetings as you can. Go out of town with anyone else who is having meetings--doesn’t matter who really. And meet people, learn things, go to all the briefings you can go to and just gather information and then start thinking about what you want to do. And I found that to be the best advice I received anywhere.

Q. Looking at the team as a whole including all the international components, what would you say about whether the team had the appropriate skills needed to carry out the mission?

A. Yes. I think everyone did, at least on the US side. The Japanese certainly knew very much what they were doing and I never had any trouble working with my Lithuanian counterparts. They were all… There was no problem with skill levels.

Q. Did you have a predecessor?

A. No.

Q. Did you receive any kind of advice?

A. No, none.

Q. How would you characterize the impact of security on your operations?

A. Well security in Ghowr was relatively good. The PRT hadn’t had any attacks against it for all of 2009. The last four months of the tour we did have a series of attacks on the PRT--nothing really major but enough that it did inhibit movement somewhat. We had self-drive from the PRT to the town until the fall of this year when the PRT commander suspended self-drive on his own. The embassy still has us listed as a self-drive PRT. But the local commander has not allowed that since we had a series of security incidents within Ghowr

Q. And that’s his call?

A. Well, the final call on security is always the PRTs commander’s.

Q. What would you say about the impact of logistical issues on your operations?

A. Logistics in Afghanistan is always a problem. The memorandum of understanding that the US has with Lithuania, other than providing us with the office they don’t provide us with anything else. So if I wanted paper clips or a pen I had to order from the embassy and have it flown out on embassy air (craft) and delivered to us that way. I mean we had to always plan, or if someone was going to the embassy or passing through for whatever reason we would ask them to pick up office supplies at the field support unit and bring them back with them. A little bit of that. But logistics in Ghowr is terrible; the roads are beyond awful, they’re not even roads. Just little paths. So anything you want to do took a

12 great deal of effort. It wasn’t uncommon for us to take ten hours to drive 40 kilometers. So you could almost walk that fast, I mean. It is very, very mountainous, very, very cold in the winter. Very difficult to get around.

Q. What about the impact of communications on your work?

A. Communications were good. I mean we had very good high speed internet. Cell phones didn’t work real well, but the embassy now has made the decision, which is a very good one, that from now on the cell phones will be issued will have a dual SIM card… will have both of the two Afghan cell phone networks because their coverage is somewhat exclusive, mutually excludes each other, so being able to switch between the two would be very helpful. Because very often one was down and it could be down for a week and you’d have no cell phone contact then. We did a VOIP line (voice over internet protocol) from the PRT to the embassy.

Q. Maybe it’s a logistical issue but food and lodging? Any comments?

A. No. It was very good. The food at the PRT was quite good. We were living in containers. In Ghowr you couldn’t go out anyway. Temperatures in Ghowr will be the minus 40s in the winter. So tents and those things would not be practical at all. The PRT had been built in 2004, Lithuania took it over in 2005 and our accommodations, offices, the areas of the camp were quite good.

Q. What did you do for heat in those containers?

A. Well, the little electric heaters, little electric radiators. The only down side being, of course, there is just no insulation so if you turned it off it would just be immediately cold. Because of the huge temperature difference, in the winter ice would form on outside walls of your container and it would run down because it was cold on the outside, warm on the inside. Just whatever moisture would come in and you would have ice and then it would melt and you’d have puddles along the walls, on the floorboards in the morning.

Q. Was there any mechanism for collecting and sharing lessons?

A. From the PRT side no, none -- nothing that I ever heard from the embassy. USDA from the very beginning, my management had asked me to, especially since I was the first person in Ghowr to collect and make a series of reports and information for a successor as well as to send the information I collected that was useful over time to the embassy. So that it could be saved and used.

Q. I think I heard you say you didn’t get much guidance from the embassy.

A. Not a great deal. Guidance? No.

Q. Is there anything you could say about the level of coordination with the embassy or even with other PRTs? Is there any kind of mechanism for doing that?


A. Nothing formal. All of us with the USDA, because a big group of us went through training together we all exchanged email addresses. We used each other as a sounding board and throughout the year I would receive emails from people who had questions about things they knew I had strengths in and we would share. And if I had some livestock questions there were two APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) veterinarians there that I knew real well. So I would without hesitation write them and ask them for information and they always wrote me back to provide me with some answers. So we did a great deal of that. Certainly from the IPA (Office of Inter-agency Provincial Affairs) stand point, I never received anything from IPA that I could think of as guidance information whatsoever. From people within the USDA side I received a lot of queries and questions and things over time but never anything I would call guidance. It was more, “could you supply information?” you know, that sort of thing.

Q. You didn’t have funds to administer, so it might not apply to you, but did you observe any evidence of corruption during your time there in Afghanistan?

A. No. I have to say no to that.

Q. Ok, so my follow on question for those who did is what’s your advice to others on how to deal with it?

A. Well I do have some (advice) there. Quite often you would run into situations that the PRT did and we would run into these. A good one for example is, there was a young woman who attempted to run away from an abusive husband and he caught her and cut her throat. Her family brought her to the hospital and one of the PRT’s doctors assisted the local doctors in saving her life. They [Afghan officials] wanted to put her in jail for running away--the local police chief and prosecutor. The PRT and Department of State officers, by shining the light of day on this incident, and making a very firm comment from us on the wrongness of this, was able to offer our assistance. There is a shelter for women in this particular situation in and we offered assistance in getting her to Herat so she could be taken out of the situation. This was the kind of things we could do. It’s certainly a fact of life in Afghanistan. In the way we as a PRT tried to address some of these things, whenever we came upon a situation that was obviously bad, unfair, someone who we felt was unfairly taking advantage of the system, and we would do our best to shine the day light on it. Bring it to attention as best we could without actively interfering, because we couldn’t. Sometimes we were able to get a slightly better result from it or help individuals this way. And that is kind of the way we worked on things.

Q. Before we end, do you have any parting thoughts, ideas or advice that might make work on future PRTs easier or more effective for people who come after you?

A. Well I do have one comment. Even within the U.S. office one of the issues that was very difficult for USAID and even State occasionally to understand is that USDA did not come there to be a development agency per se, to do projects, to spend money, to do all these things. The USDA came to provide expert advice through training and above all to

14 build the capacity of the government. I worked with three USAID reps in my year there. I noticed they tended to be very short-term. They looked at the number of projects they did and they didn’t even really care about the projects in many ways. One rep did four sports tournaments. While there’s nothing wrong with a sports tournaments and uniforms and all those things, it isn’t anything that does anything for the future. And then especially USAID was often quite hostile when I would suggest to them that a project they were doing wasn’t sustainable. That it was very short-term. They had a project to provide tractors at a heavily discounted price to local farmers. And I made the comment that in all the patrols I did--I did 13 long-range patrols outside the PRT--that I had only seen four operating tractors in the entire province and all the others didn’t work. And I was just trying to suggest to them that it’s not sustainable, especially in Ghowr, to be dumping more tractors in. That was one, and then secondly, soil erosion is a big problem in a mountainous province. And at least the current practice they use is kind of a no-till practice--it doesn’t disturb the soil much, because they use a simple wooden plough pulled by livestock and a tractor is going to, with implements, is going to stir up, bring up far more loose soil to the surface and when it rains in the spring we’re going to get more erosion from having tractors. And potentially even more damage to the land and that’s not desirable, and I remember one of the AID counterparts accusing me of obstructing development because I would constantly use the sustainable word. I found that very often they looked very short-term. It was that project they could implement and close in six months and that’s all that mattered. And I didn’t think they really looked beyond that. And also many of the things that USAID did didn’t do anything for the government in Afghanistan or to build governance. The projects they did with CRS, the Catholic Relief Services, or Global Partners, or World Vision, they did good things, they helped a village, they helped people, but they didn’t do anything to build the ability of the government. If we are not building the government and making it a better government then I think we’re defeating ourselves. Because if the people think their government isn’t a good one then they may choose to look for a new government or look to the insurgents who say “your government is corrupt, it’s terrible” and we want to do our best to make the government stronger. And I think my experience from my year there I think many of the activities that USAID did actually decreased the capacity of the government because they went around and did their own… and did nothing for the government.

Q. How would you address that mentality?

A. I thought the training here at FSI was real clear in that this whole concept of COIN(counter-insurgency) that we talked about here is all about strengthening the government and if you go directly around the government you don’t help it. Helping the people is not the same as helping the government. So I don’t know, I really don’t... And when I would make these comments I was again often accused of being obstructionist or standing in the way of their progress and I was frankly shocked. Overall my experience in working with State (Department) was rather good. Working with my AID counterparts was generally not very good. They were totally uninterested in my advice, totally uninterested in what I did, because I had more than one of them tell me “what? You don’t have any money? So why are you here?” That was their comment. They saw no value in my presence, which I was a little disappointed in.


Q. Looking at the Afghan side of things, how do you feel about the trends?

A. Talking about governance, overall I think Ghowr certainly is not perfect. And two small Tajik-based insurgent groups have established themselves in the north and are doing some things. I think part of the reason they’re there is that they’ve had some success at growing is because of dissatisfaction with the pace of the government and its ability to deliver services to the people. But Ghowr is incredibly primitive and it’s just an enormous problem to do anything, to build it up quickly. But overall compared to many other places in Afghanistan, Ghowr is far ahead of many provinces in that we have government and we need to just make it better and more responsive and be able to get more services out to the people. And certainly the way we distribute funds in Afghanistan, the US-run commands RC (Regional Command) East, RC Southwest or in areas like in RC South where there is sizable U.S. troops, there are huge amounts of money available. My Department of State representative told me that in 10 years the U.S. government has spent 22 million dollars in Ghowr. Which is not very much money. I’ve talked to people in U.S. PRTs where they had 30, 40 million dollar budgets for the PRT for a year! And so the lack of resources certainly inhibits the development of Ghowr to some degree.