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Development Projects -- Seeing Progress First Hand

  • Published
  • By U.S. Air Force Capt. Seth Platt
  • Kapisa Provincial Reconstruction Team Civil Engineer
One would think that measuring progress in a war-torn country would be easy, especially in the civil engineering realm where we traditionally measure progress by dollars spent, miles of roads opened, and numbers of buildings constructed. After all, when you start with no real infrastructure to speak of, anything at all can be considered an improvement and can therefore be considered progress, correct? Unfortunately, this is does not seem to be the case here in Afghanistan. We are building schools, courthouses, bridges and roads but that is not how we should choose to measure progress.

Let me give an example (albeit a seemingly small one) of what I'm trying to say. I was in a meeting with Kapisa Minister of Public Health the other day and was pleasantly shocked when I heard the minister tell us that having a building for his doctors was not the most important thing because a doctor can still heal people even while working under the trees. His point was that having the doctor without a building was infinitely better than having a building without a doctor.

During that meeting I could tell that I was seeing progress first-hand, and it was exciting. Of course progress is slow, as later in the meeting the minister asked the Provincial Reconstruction Team to design and construct a new Tuberculosis Clinic, (which highlights that having the doctor and the clinic is really the best choice), but I digress. The nugget I took from that meeting is that the leadership in this part of the country seems to understand the problems and solutions here more acutely than we sometimes give them credit for.

In our line of work as a PRT, it's important to remember that progress isn't just building the facilities, but what you do with those facilities that make the difference. Only when the schools I helped to build are full of children, when every courthouse we construct is open and managed by a lawful judge, and when local commerce is strengthened by newly constructed road systems managed by the PRT engineers will I consider my work here a success. And most of all, only when the local government is able to protect and maintain those structures and is capable of constructing such projects for itself will we have won this war, at least in my corner of the world.

PRT Kapisa assists the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in providing a secure, stable environment for reconstruction efforts by increasing government officials' capabilities and capacities. Reconstruction projects, managed by the PRT civil engineers, better enable the PRT to connect the government with the people and improve quality of life throughout the province.