Afghanistan

USAID Field Report Afghanistan Mar 2003

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United States Agency for International Development
Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance
Office of Transition Initiatives
Program Description

USAID/OTI's program goal is to support the process of recovery, rehabilitation and political development in post-conflict Afghanistan. Working with a number of local and international partners, USAID/OTI's program is building citizen confidence in the progress of political development, empowering citizens to address basic community needs, and building an alliance between legitimate government structures and citizens. In addition, USAID/OTI supports efforts to strengthen independent media. USAID/OTI's budget for FY2002 was approximately $27 million. USAID/OTI's budget for FY2003 is currently $13.1 million.

USAID/OTI's projects also strengthen economic recovery by improving essential commercial and public infrastructure, reestablishing the relationships and routines that give communities cohesiveness, contributing to sustainable stability and recovery by establishing links between the community and governmental authorities, and building connections between the provinces and Kabul.

USAID/OTI's overall program strategy is to help the Afghan government to function outside Kabul by planning and implementing projects guided by community priorities, and by creating and/or strengthening linkages among the national, provincial, and district governments. USAID/OTI is also improving the communication infrastructure and implementing a comprehensive media strategy.

USAID/OTI's main implementing partners in Afghanistan are the International Organization for Migration - Afghanistan Transition Initiative (IOM-ATI), Ronco (a U.S. contractor), and Internews. USAID/OTI funds projects in all 32 provinces of the country.

Country Situation

March saw an increase in violence against internationals organizations, the rumored return of the Taliban to several areas, school burnings, rocket attacks close to the U.S. Embassy, three attempts to detonate fuel tankers, and an attack on international peacekeepers. Travel is ill-advised in the south and east and new threats restrict travel in the north.

Southern Region

Amidst reliable reports that substantial numbers of Taliban are returning to Afghanistan and with the eyes of the international community watching events unfold in Iraq, tragedy struck the assistance and military communities in March. The month ended with the murder of an international ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) staff member and the ambush and killing of two U.S. soldiers as they approached a school scheduled for reconstruction.

Eastern Region

The region remains volatile with rocket attacks continuing against U.S. Coalition compounds in Gardez and Khost. In March, fighting broke out twice between warlord Pacha Khan Zadran's (PKZ) forces and Afghan National Army (ANA) and Coalition soldiers along the road between Gardez and Khost. Reports indicate that PKZ's youngest son was killed and he has vowed revenge.

Northern Region

Apart from a rocket attack at Mazar Airport and local fighting in Sari Pul the month was comparatively stable in the northern provinces. A UN-backed security commission in Mazar-e-Sharif successfully secured a truce between fighting factions, the latest success in easing tensions between soldiers loyal to warlords Abdul Rashid Dostum and Atta Mohammad.

However, the security situation remains tense in the Faryab province. The two major political powers have been distributing weapons and are continuing their power struggle in the area. It is hoped that the Dostum-Atta ceasefire extends to this province.

Western Region

Herat province and the surrounding areas have been calm with no outbreaks of fighting between forces loyal to Herat governor Ismail Khan and Commander Amanullah Khan, the result of a ceasefire between the two. However, pro-Taliban activity has returned to the Badghis province and local fighting has resumed in Bala Murghab.

Kabul Region

Multinational peacekeepers stepped up patrols in and around Kabul after a bomb killed one and injured another peacekeeper early in March. It was the first direct attack on the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) since its creation in 2001.

On Sunday night March 30 two rockets were fired in the general vicinity of the U.S. Embassy. One rocket hit the ISAF compound and the other hit a nearby neighborhood. No one was injured.

Reliable reports indicate that the Taliban have been amassing new recruits and weapons with the apparent goal of destabilizing the Central Government.

OTI Highlights

A. Highlights of USAID/OTI's Afghanistan Program - March 2003

Peace Training with Mullahs Takes Its First Step Forward. After nearly two months of discussions with officials of the Ministry of Haj and Religious Affairs, the minister agreed to send one mullah (religious and traditional local leaders) to an eight-day seminar on conflict resolution facilitated by SDF, an OTI-funded Afghan NGO. [Note: All mullahs are paid a salary by the ministry.] In order to determine if the program will be extended to numerous groups of mullah, the representative mullah will report back to the Minister on whether the training was useful.

National Codan System Nearly Fully Operational. USAID/OTI provided $290,000 to assist the Ministry of Communications in establishing an HF radio system to enable communications with all provinces of the country for the first time. While two of the country's most remote provinces - Badakshan and Ghor - had still to be connected by the end of March, the systems in the other 30 provinces are now operational. The official opening was held in Kabul in late March, officiated over by Minister Stanikzai. Given the complexity of the computer equipment involved, a second round of training for provincial staff is being planned. In addition, OTI partner IOM-ATI will renovate a number of provincial post offices where the equipment is currently housed.

"Between Us" Radio Talk Show is Now On the Airwaves. Partner NGO AINA has completed ten interactive talk shows dealing with topics of national interest such as the formation of the national army and the constitutional process. Extensive and ongoing discussions with the Deputy Minister of Information and Culture were needed in order to get the show on the air. In mid-March the first show aired on its now-regular time-slot on Monday mornings. Informal feedback regarding the two shows that have aired to date has been overwhelmingly positive.

"Afghanistan Unveiled" a Critical Success. With OTI funding, AINA produced a 50 minute documentary on Afghan women around the country filmed by four Afghan women video-journalists who had never been out of Kabul before. The story is both an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of women's lives throughout the country and to follow the personal development of the four photo-journalists as they discover their country and themselves. Besides being shown in Afghanistan, the film is also gaining international recognition by being entered into film festivals in France and Germany.

Judicial and Constitutional Commissions Hooked up to the Internet. As part of OTI's ongoing assistance to the Judicial and Constitutional Commissions, both have been connected to the internet via satellite. Not only will this facilitate communication with national and international partners, but it will also give the Judicial Commission and the Ministry of Justice access to Lexis Nexus, which is an online legal library.

Children's Radio Show Very Popular. Regional radio stations eagerly awaited the third installment of the Internews-produced show "Shahrak Atfal" or "Children's Town." The show is proving to be one of the most requested in the country as confirmed by OTI interviews with station managers. Two other shows that are also receiving many compliments are "Khabare O Sandare," (Talking About Music), a Pashtu show, and "Haq-e-Man Chist" (What Are My Rights?), a program dramatizing various human rights issues and offering solutions. This latter show is produced in partnership with the Independent Commission for Human Rights.

USAID/OTI Civil-Military Coordination Update. The new office for the U.S. Military Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Bamyan officially opened March 2. The next PRT, scheduled for Kunduz, will be launched in April. After Kunduz, there will be a PRT operational pause to evaluate the PRTs' successes and challenges. In early or mid-summer the next PRT will open, probably in Kandahar, Mazar or Jalalabad.

OTI facilitated meetings between U.S. Army radio engineers and state radio station staff in Gardez, Khost and Kandahar to determine the cause of current operating problems and to review solutions. Military and civilian USG agencies are very interested in encouraging the development of both state and independent radio and are coordinating their assistance initiatives through OTI.

B. Program Impact Reports

"Things are Changing in Bamyan," said an elderly man, a resident of Shab Dara Valley. Shab Dara and Ruz Dara are two valleys located in Bamyan Province. Most of the inhabitants earn their living from the potato crop they produce and then sell in the distant cities of Kabul and Ma-zar-I-Sharif. The Qalai Dadar bridge, the only link with the main valley in Bamya, is critical to their ability to transport the potatoes to market. In January 2002, as often in the past, the population of the two valleys gathered together to rebuild the bridge, which has to be rehabilitated every year as the many trucks carrying potatoes out of the province put excessive pressure on the wood and mud structure. The communities met with the governor and asked him to find someone to come and help them build a bridge that would last "forever".

The provincial authorities heard their request and advocated that USAID, through its partner IOM-ATI, consider repairing the bridge. In response, USAID/OTI collaborated with the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development and funded the project. Rebuilding of the bridge demonstrated the government's support of the people's request for a bridge that would last.

Grant Restores Equipment Destroyed by the Taliban in Northwest Women's Center. The Maimana Women's Association and Weaving Center in Faryab province has been providing vocational training since 1971 until the Taliban raided the center and destroyed the equipment. With a small USAID/OTI grant of $4,000, the Women's Association built new rug-weaving frames and bought needles and sewing machines. The association also purchased cloth for embroidery and yarn to make rugs. Once known for its gilim rugs, the women are now reviving this craft. At the same time, they are learning new income generation skills by participating in monthly business meetings and selling their rugs in the market. In January, the USAID/OTI local newsletter reported there were 20 women working at the Center. As of this month, there are now 100, with an additional 47 on the waiting list. Most of the women working at the center are widows.

This project was implemented in partnership with the provincial Afghan Ministry of Social Affairs. The Director of the Social Affairs office said that buying the equipment was "...the most important contribution that anyone could have made for the women (because) they are learning that they can survive and take care of their children and they are an example to everyone that the dark days of the Taliban are over and that light has come back to our lives."

In appreciation to the United States, the women of the Maimana Association have created a rug of the United States flag as a gift to the First Lady. OTI is working to deliver the rug to Mrs. Bush next month.

C. Program Appraisal

The development of independent radio stations is not occurring as rapidly as hoped. Although 17 new stations are proposed for FY 2003, only four are in the early stages of creation and none are up and running as of yet. The majority of Afghan citizens listen to radio. Radio will be the primary medium for public education and information as the new constitution is debated and ratified and as the country faces elections next year. Few of the state stations broadcast more than a couple hours a day and are in dire need of more training. Objectives to expand international and national news coverage and inform citizens about the successes of the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan (TISA) will be unsuccessful unless more staff is dedicated to assisting radio stations.

Escalating security risks and the outbreak of renewed violence in the south and east continue to hamper the expansion of USAID/OTI's programs.

D. Grants Activity Summary for USAID/OTI Programming in Afghanistan for the month of March 2003.

Program Category
Approved
Total
Community Infrastructure
6
$386,961
Good Governance / Transparency
5
$277,000
Media
6
$252,812
Total
17
$916,773

USAID/OTI Grants Completed in March 2003 include:

  • Rehabilitation of a primary girls school in Ruy-e-Sang village, Bamyan Province;

  • Rehabilitation of Primary girls school in Ruy-e-Sang village, Bamyan Province;

  • Construction of 16 classrooms for Saifuddin School, Herat Province;

  • Rehabilitation and construction of extension to Adraskan School, Herat Province;

  • Loya Jirga Focus Groups;

  • Dam and Canal in Samangan Province;

  • Rehabilitation of Silo Factory in Mazar-e-Sharif, Balkh Province.
USAID/OTI signed the following small grants during March 2003:
Subgrantee
Project
Beneficiaries
Community of Aybak District, Samagan Province. Building 104 meters of concrete retaining wall of the Carvan Sarai canal. Four-hundred hectares of irrigated land protected that will benefit 2,000 families. Four skilled laborers and 14 unskilled laborers will be employed for 60 days.
Community of Aybak District, Samagan Province. Construction of stone masonry wall for the Zuhrabi canal. The wall will provide permanent irrigation water for 1,400 hectares of land, benefiting 2,000 families. Seven skilled laborers and 39 unskilled laborers will be employed for 60 days.
Community of Aybak District, Samagan Province. Rehabilitation of Marjan Irrigation System. One-thousand hectares of land will be irrigated. Two skilled and 7 unskilled laborers will be employed for 60 days.
Communities of Gardez and Khost Cities. Construction of Laka Tiga Bridge retaining wall and culvert. The population of Khost City (4,000 families) and Gardez (3,500 families) will benefit directly with 3,000 vehicles per day using the bridge. Ten skilled and 12 unskilled laborers will be employed for a total estimated 792 man days.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Kindergarten Female employees of the ministry who will have a safe place to leave their children.
Ministry of Finance Support for Provincial Financial Officers. The payment of salaries for 20 provincial financial officers will benefit the entire country through the institutionalizing of standard financial controls.
The Constitutional Drafting Commission. As the drafting commission of nine expands to 38, additional equipment such as office furniture, office equipment, and computers is needed. This assistance will enable the commission to get a quick start without waiting for other donor assistance. The ultimate beneficiaries will be the people of Afghanistan.
TV Afghanistan Provision of camera equipment. The viewers of TV Afghanistan will benefit from additional news coverage. USAID will benefit from assured coverage of its events.
TV Afghanistan Training of news moderators. With training by an expert BBC moderator, the quality of news reporting will greatly increase.
Sanayee Development Foundation. Conflict resolution training in 12 provinces. The beneficiaries will be the citizenry of the prioritized provinces who will learn means of dealing with conflict without resorting to violence.
Sanayee Development Foundation. Training / mentoring for con-flict-resolution trainers. This grant will enable SDF to hire an additional 20 facilitators who will greatly enable SDF to increase their geographical coverage.
Office of the President's Information Collection and Dissemination Unit. Hiring of a consultant for 4 months to train staff and ensure that the system is fully functional upon her departure. This activity will lead to greater national and international information as to progress and plans regarding national reconstruction.
Judicial Commission. Rehabilitation of building where the nation's property documents are stored. The beneficiaries will be those individuals who have property as the relevant documents will be protected and facilitate the resolution of any property disputes.
AINA Establishment of a Permanent Mobile Cinema. The eight caravans will travel to 20 to 25 villages each to show films related to civic education and national development.
Ministry of Education Provision of media equipment to the Ministry of Education. The equipment will be used to prepare short spots on the constitutional process which will be aired on TV and radio both in Kabul and the provinces.
Ministry of Public Health - Aga Khan Foundation Construction of Women's Dormitory for the Intermediate Medical Education Institute. Three hundred rural female students from around the country will benefit from having a secure place to live while studying primary health care.
Media Support Solutions. Technical assistance for the development of radio messages as part of the education strategy regarding the constitutional process. The entire nation will benefit from access to accurate and interesting information on the constitutional process.

NEXT STEPS/IMMEDIATE PRIORITIES

During the month of April, USAID/OTI will:

  • Continue working with the Afghan Supreme Court to develop and operationalize a plan for computerizing Afghanistan's documents.

  • Expand training on conflict-resolution and civic education, especially as it relates to the constitutional process.

  • Conduct field briefings and accompany new USAID Field Program Officers to Kandahar and Kunduz.

  • Prepare Provincial Reconstruction Teams 'Lessons Learned" for USAID/Washington, CJCMOTF, and CJTF-180.

  • Conduct USAID and OTI orientation for new US Army CJCMOTF command.

  • Continue monitoring the development of independent radio stations throughout the country and continue to support state radio stations.