News: Orgun directors, PRT civil affairs work together to develop Paktika
Story by 1st Lt. Emily Chilson
PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Paktika Provincial Reconstruction Team’s civil affairs team met with Orgun leaders on Forward Operating Base Orgun-East to discuss provincial concerns Nov. 21.
Members of Paktika PRT frequently hold meetings with provincial leaders to determine their needs and see how the PRT can assist.
The meetings allow team members to track the issues in Orgun concerning education, government, healthcare, economics and security, according to U.S. Army Capt. Mike Butler, Chicago native and Paktika PRT Orgun civil affairs team chief.
“It’s good to hear there is no tribal conflict in Orgun,” Butler said as the meeting began with Mohammed Salim, Orgun’s deputy director of tribal affairs.
Directing tribal affairs is no small task, as there are three or four different tribes represented in each village. The first topic of discussion was Orgun District’s new subgovernor, Khushid Rehman.
“The new subgovernor is a great man,” Salim said. “He invited Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police to keep security.”
Salim asked Butler to attend their weekly shura, a meeting where tribal leaders, village elders and government directors can discuss issues within the province. Rehman is also planning to attend the shura, Salim added.
“I hope it won’t be any trouble for you to attend,” Salim said. “It would be a huge help to see what the people are thinking. People are hoping for the subgovernor to work to rebuild Orgun.”
Salim said education is a priority.
“It’s good to keep the young people busy, to keep kids from getting into trouble,” Salim said. “Unfortunately in this culture, especially in these villages, they don’t care about education. I feel … as a government leader it is my duty to make education important.”
As the meeting with Salim came to an end, Sadim Bahader Zoy, the director of the Orgun Youth Cultural Union, waited outside to meet with Butler.
Butler shook hands with Salim and expressed his thanks for meeting with him and then welcomed Zoy into the room. Zoy began by describing the nongovernmental organization he founded.
“It started eight months ago and we already have 400 members. We aren’t just trying to help local [Afghans],” he added. “We are trying to bring youths together by starting sports teams and bringing them education.”
Currently, those 400 members are men age 18 and above but, according to Zoy, they also have programs for children and women in mind. Zoy claimed that the Tribal Liaison Organization has agreed to build a cricket stadium at a cost of about $80,000.
However, the union is having trouble finding the land.
Zoy explained that the people of Orgun usually go to the district subgovernor for help with their problems, but that his organization assists as well.
The union has plans for a radio station and magazine, according to Zoy, who thinks education and communication are the keys to addressing corruption in the province. “The main way we want to educate is through media,” he explained. “We want to talk to people through the radio. We already got the license and approval, but we’re waiting on the name and frequency.”
Zoy told Butler he has seen positive changes since coalition forces arrived in Afghanistan. Butler thanked them for meeting with him.
With the information he gathered from both meetings, Butler explained what steps he would take next.
“The tribal affairs meeting was for discussing the upcoming shura for elders from eastern Paktika,” Butler said. “With the youth group, we’re going to reach out to the ANA to see if they can help them obtain land for their cricket field. That’s going to be a little tough.”
A couple days after these meetings, Butler met with Mohammed Alam, Orgun deputy director of finance. Alam was a refugee in Pakistan for 19 years and said there are still about 100,000 to 150,000 Afghans living as refugees in Pakistan.
“Little by little they are coming back to Afghanistan,” Alam said. “This is our country. We have to serve our country and our people. We are all brothers.”
Butler spoke to Alam about what his top priorities are for Orgun in the realm of finance.
“My main goal is to bring rule and regulation on how to collect taxes,” Alam said. “There are about 500 stores in the bazaar but right now I don’t have anything on paper that will allow me to collect.”
Noor Alam is the deputy director for rural reconstruction in Orgun and also attended the meeting.
“We ask the people what they need or what they want and we tell the government,” Noor Alam explained. “We know what people need is to fix and build things like clinics and schools.”
With plenty of potential avenues for reconstruction in Orgun, Butler wrapped up the meeting, thanking the two deputy line directors for taking the time to meet with him.
Through meetings like these, and building relationships with provincial leaders, the PRT is accomplishing its mission little by little: facilitate improvements in governance and socioeconomic development, in order to provide a sustainable, secure environment for the population of Afghanistan.