News: One year on, reflections on Lashkar Gah’s entry into Transition
LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan - I arrived in Helmand in October of 2010 to work alongside local Government as a District Stabilisation Advisor, in the months preceding the Provincial Capital’s entry into Transition to Afghan responsibility. One year on from that entry into Transition, the positive changes seen in Lashkar Gah, both in security and governance terms, have had time to consolidate.
Most striking about Lashkar Gah’s entry into Transition was the great swell of Pashtun pride that accompanied it, taking some of us by surprise. There was a sense among Afghan authorities that not only were they ready to take the step, but that it was the right and, in their view, honourable thing to do. While July 2011 saw the Transition process take root in the mindset of those political and security elites most involved in the Province’s affairs, the past year has been about the wider population fostering an appreciation that things have changed.
To the wider population, International Community support in Lashkar Gah, although remaining, has become much less visible. This is a crucial step on the road to Transition, as the population comes to terms with the fact that they now have a Government which, although far from perfect, can provide leadership and a degree of basic services. Confidence in security forces also continues to grow.
But what does progress actually look like to residents of wider Lashkar Gah one year on?
By way of illustration, at the beginning of last year a drive to the North of the Helmand River could easily take two hours. A twenty-minute drive through the relatively traffic-free city streets, followed by a drive along a slow, bumpy and insecure track which could take around one and a half hours. When I left Helmand earlier this year, that same drive had changed dramatically. A ‘commute’ through the city could easily now take double the time due to traffic and busy streets; while a highway, opened last year by the Provincial Governor, cuts travel time to the North of Lashkar Gah by around two-thirds. These are significant changes for communities which had previously found the city, its markets, clinics, and public officials, inaccessible.
Challenges remain, yet significantly the ownership of those challenges is becoming increasingly Afghan. One year after Lashkar Gah’s entry into Transition, if you were to have a cup of chai and discuss Transition with the elders and community leaders I used to sit with on a regular basis, I imagine they would still suggest that it is the ‘right’ path. That’s not to say they wouldn’t want to continue to have a little support along the way.
Date Posted:07.21.2012 15:15
Location:LASHKAR GAH, AF
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