Afghanistan: PRTs accused of spending unequal amounts on development

KABUL, 4 May 2007 (IRIN) - For Afghanistan's only female governor it is not poppy cultivation or insurgency that impedes development, but Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) with modest development budgets.

"Larger PRTs spend more on development while smaller PRTs have less to spend," Bamiyan's governor, Habiba Sarabi, told IRIN in Kabul on Wednesday.

Sarabi longs for a US-led PRT in her impoverished province, which would have spent, she says, more development money than the existing New Zealand PRT.

Led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has PRTs in 25 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces, most of which execute short-term development projects in addition to their main task of supporting provincial authorities in improving security.


Assadullah Wafa, the governor of the conflict-ridden southern province of Helmand - where a large British-led PRT is based, does not agree with Sarabi that larger PRTs spend more and smaller ones less.

"Contrary to what many people say Helmand does not receive sufficient funds from its PRT for rebuilding," said Wafa.

"Each PRT is funded by its own nation and each of those nations has slightly different priorities and mechanisms by which they invest money in Afghanistan," said Maj-Gen Garry Robinson, a deputy commander for ISAF in Kabul.

Neither the government of Afghanistan nor ISAF has strong control over the PRTs budgets, officials say.

Afghan minister comments

Afghanistan's minister for rural rehabilitation and development, Ehsan Zia, told IRIN: "We cannot make a decision which should equalize PRTs development budgets in all provinces. It is impossible for us to ask the British-led PRT in Helmand province and the Lithuania-led PRT in Ghor province to spend equal amounts of development money."

However, some Afghan officials say development money spent by PRTs should comply with the same reporting mechanisms as assistance provided through Afghanistan's overall reconstruction and development.

"NATO, in consultation with the Afghan government should develop means of harmonising and balancing assistance across provinces so that aid is allocated in accordance with the government's principles and priorities," said Adeeb Farhadi, director of Afghanistan National Development Strategy.

NATO officials in Kabul said they are willing to harmonise the PRTs' humanitarian and development efforts with government policies.

The PRTs have critics in the international aid community. A recent analysis from the think tank Overseas Development Institute, said "In Afghanistan, Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) were perceived as blurring the lines between humanitarian and military action."