Securing governance
Written by Nathan Gallahan   
Saturday, 20 February 2010 20:39

Panjwayi District Center | Day 13 – This morning I got up bright and early, jumped in an armored vehicle, and headed down the street with my new Canadian friends to explore the world of Afghan governance.

We entered the district center and it was the biggest one I have ever seen. I’m used to the district centers housing a few buildings behind some barbed wire. This one was huge! It was more of a secure compound with majestic mountains erupting from the earth behind it. The terrain in this country constantly astounds me.

I was hoping to learn about all the good within the government and a foundation for hope for the Afghan people. Unfortunately, I entered a world that needs a lot of

work. The first lesson I learned was that governance is founded on good security. Without security, governance is extremely difficult.

For example, line ministries, such as education and health, are nonexistent in this district, progress is slowly being made but the hard part is getting the right people into the right positions. Illiteracy is rampant, so finding people who can fill staff and leadership positions is extremely hard. People need to be found first, and then trained how to do the job correctly. This takes a lot of time.

So for now, there are two Canadian corporals handling a lot of the administration behind conflict resolution and then taking those to the district leader to have them signed. The Canadians have to fill in these types of positions while they try and find and train good people to replace them. There’s an entire Canadian support structure that lives down here to help with governance, partnerships, development and security.

While I was there I asked about corruption, because although I hear about it a lot, I only have a basic idea of what it really is. Two civilian staff members talked to me about it and I now understand how badly it’s hurting the Afghan people. They explained a few examples they have seen. There was an official that was allowed to hire 300 Afghans to do a job. He hired 200. On payday, he had 100 of them go through the line twice to receive salary and then took the additional paychecks for himself. To solve this specific problem, some workers are given electronic accounts and paid directly a nd others are paid directly by coalition forces.

On the other hand, they also talked about how some village elders might sip 10 percent of the top off a school construction project fund, to stash away in a v illage slush fund. They use the money to help their people if they hit hard times. Would you consider this corruption or bending the rules, since there are no real government support entities here to support them?

Throughout my corruption conversations, I kept remembering a five-second sentence U.S. Army Colonel John Agoglia, the director of the Counter Insurgency School, told me. He said Gen. Stanely McChrystal was about to issue Anti-Corruption guidance which should help the situation.

I also had an opportunity to watch the District Development Agencies first Shura in three years. They said during the meeting they stopped holding the Shura’s because the Taliban killed seven of their members. They said they hoped to help out their communities in the same way they have in the past. They said they built 19 schools, 5 hospitals and cleaned out a lot of culverts and completed other community projects. I saw the will and desire of the Afghan people in that Shura and I really hope the security situation improves so governance and groups like this can grow and prosper. 

Before I left, I took a moment to talk with a 37-year-old Afghan man who was visiting the district center to resolve a conflict. I only had about three minutes to chat with him before I was told to armor up and get ready to go.

In that short amount of time, he told me that he has lived through the Soviet occupation, the civil war and now the current conflict. He said he hasn’t had a single happy day in his entire life. He told me how horrible it is to be caught between the Taliban and the Afghan Government and it’s hard to raise children amongst the fighting.

I finally asked him how peace could be brought to his people and he then made eye contact with me for the first time and he told me it was of such a huge problem, he had no idea, but he prayed for peace every day.

While sitting there listening to him, I finally understood there is more than one “front line” in counter insurgency. The invisible front line the Afghan National Army crosses everyday with its coalition partners, and then the invisible governance front line where corruption, education and development challenges are battled. Both are equally important, because as one of the staffers told me today, the Afghans do as the Taliban say, because they are more scared of the Taliban than they are of us.

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Comments (6)add comment

Nathan Gallahan said:

Challening Corruption
Hi Kristin, I'm not the smartest dude on the street on fighting corruption, but I do know that Gen. McChrystal is finalizing some anti-corruption guidance. I hope that will provide some tools for people to work with. I'll keep corruption on my mind throughout this trip and see if there any more examples though. As for whether Afghans wonder about their government and Taliban. I'm not an expert, but I have talked with a few that say there are tons of rumors floating around the country due to the Talibans information operations campaign. One of the big ones I've come across is some believe international forces are funding the Taliban so we have a reason to stay, which is absolutely rediculous. That's why the truth here is so critically important. In so many regards this is a information war and the Taliban are pretty good at it.
 
February 22, 2010
Votes: +0

Kevin G. said:

Another great update!
Sobering report about the conversation with the 37-year old (considering I'm 36 and I haven't had to live through multiple conflicts!) but it's what we need to hear about so keep this up! Be careful though or this may become 365 days in Afghanistan. Just kidding. Thanks.
 
February 22, 2010
Votes: +0

Kristin S. said:

...
This example is a really sad, hard truth. The news here in the states is running a lot of lines about the corruption in Afghanistan (as well as Iraq) and it seems that many people are concerned that our tax dollars are filling up the pockets of corrupt govt officials. Nathan can you tell us more examples about what we are doing to challenge this? Are there doubts among the Afghan people that the corrupt govt officials are working with the Taliban, rather than the locals working with them?
 
February 21, 2010
Votes: +0

Nathan Gallahan said:

Oh No!
Really sorry for the black text everyone! I must have been really tired because I forgot an important step in creating the blog on the site!

The Canadian soldiers are working to find people or get them trained enough to handle those positions themselves, but it's really difficult because some people wouldn't want to be caught working for the government because of the security.

I was also laying in bed last night thinking of this blog, and I wanted to add that the example I gave was a pretty light one. The corruption can be so bad, that some Afghan officials could be charging regular Afghans for conflict resolution or even slipping information to the Taliban so the Taliban won't kill them. It's a pretty bad situation that I'm hopeful Gen. McChyrstal's new guidance will help with.
 
February 21, 2010
Votes: +0

Mike Moore said:

Afghan Man...
He really said it all... unless the people have economic viability and are somehow able to work through their tribal differences, this will not succeed... thanks once again for doing this...

In that short amount of time, he told me that he has lived through the Soviet occupation, the civil war and now the current conflict. He said he hasn’t had a single happy day in his entire life. He told me how horrible it is to be caught between the Taliban and the Afghan Government and it’s hard to raise children amongst the fighting.



I finally asked him how peace could be brought to his people and he then made eye contact with me for the first time and he told me it was of such a huge problem, he had no idea, but he prayed for peace every day.
 
February 21, 2010
Votes: +0

Thanks_173rd_Airborne said:

Governance
Great report,Nate. The work you and Ken are doing is exactly what I have longed for several years to see coming out of Afghanistan. Your blogs and vlogs are making me re-think a lot of my perceptions and pre-conveoved notions. I'm beginning to get a feel for how diversified Afghanistan and the Afghans are...thanks to you and Ken.

Given the high rate of unemployment, do you think it's possible some of our development money could be used to train young Afghans to do the work that the two Canadian soldiers are doing? I'm convinced that jobs for Afghans is one of the most important goals that we can have.
 
February 21, 2010
Votes: +0

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