Video story

Redevelopment In Afghanistan

The war in Afghanistan has not just been about fighting. Since the conflict began in 2001, development work has been taking place in an attempt to encourage a more stable future. UK government agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and charities have been active alongside the military.

The political, economic and social development of Afghanistan is vital if the country is to be more secure and prosperous. Progress has been made, with elections in 2014, investment in Afghan businesses, and improvements to infrastructure and key services. There are more schools and health clinics and a more robust legal system.

But the situation is far from perfect. While Britain and other coalition partners are committed to continuing development work beyond the withdrawal of combat troops at the end of 2014, the future of Afghanistan is delicately poised. So much depends on continued investment and the maintenance of security.

In spring 2014, IWM staff visited Afghanistan as part of IWM’s Contemporary Conflicts Programme. The individual accounts presented here are just some of the interviews that featured in our exhibition War Story: Afghanistan 2014.

  • Politics and Governance

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    Robert Chatterton Dickson, Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Kabul, explains how 2014 is a key transitional phase in Afghanistan and how Britain and international partners are involved in this transition.

    Transcript:

    '2014 is going to be the year of transition and there’s really two elements to that. The first is there’s going to be an election…So there’ll be a first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan in its history. I mean if you go back 40 years there’ve been eight violent transfers of power in Afghanistan and it really will be a huge move forward if for the first time in Afghan history we have a democratic transfer of power and I think the omens are pretty good for that. And then beyond that there’s a plan for the international community, with the UK prominent amongst it, to support Afghanistan, to continue to support a new government…And then on top of that there’s plans for development assistance, very large scale development assistance to continue.'

  • Presidential Election

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    Fazel Rabi Wardak, Director for Strategic Programs for the Asia Foundation, assesses what Afghans may look for in the candidates for the presidential elections in 2014.

    Transcript:

    'I think, as an Afghan again, I will say that there are different standards that we are looking for. The first standard for me is that we need an independent, secure and peaceful Afghanistan. The policy of these 11 presidential candidates that we are having, we are looking to those standards that who can bring these three or four points that I just mentioned, like a peaceful, stable and independent Afghanistan in the future. We will definitely vote for that. We are still looking or searching which candidate is good for the future of Afghanistan. Definitely we will decide to cast our vote for that person.'

  • Role of NGOs

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    Helen Walton, Head of Socio-Economic Development for the Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team (HPRT), explains how NGOs work in Afghanistan and the sort of projects they deliver.

    Transcript:

    '…the ones that we’ve worked with here, they’re often smaller organisations and some of them have been local NGOs and they have, they often have the capacity to work more closely with local people in communities and get to places that we can’t get to - to deliver programmes...One of the NGOs that we have been working with has delivered the Department for International Development’s vocational training project in Helmand. That’s been training, it has trained 20,000 young people in basic skills such as tailoring, embroidery, motorbike repair, all sorts of things and they have provided, they have, there have been 20 different vocational training centres across seven districts in the province…And the NGO has been delivering the training at those centres.'

  • Law and Crime

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    Chloe Mackenzie, Rule of Law section based at the British Embassy in Kabul, describes how the Rule of Law section try to improve the legal system in Afghanistan by placing more emphasis on evidence-based prosecutions.

    Transcript:

    'What you see in confessions based convictions is that is often where acts of torture will happen, so what we really want them to do is move away from those types of practices, get them using modern practices; forensics evidence, fingerprints, linking people to the scene, using witness statements, sketching out what has happened at a crime scene, and really using that evidence to prosecute people rather than waiting until they are in custody and trying to force them to make a confession. So what we link onto that then is with the prosecutors here, the internal and external security prosecutors, we help to give them training and development about then how to use the evidence which the police have hopefully collected, to build strong cases against these individuals.'

  • Education

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    Alison Oswald, Project Manager for the Steps Towards Afghan Girls Educational Success (STAGES) Project for the Aga Khan Foundation, talks about some of the problems in improving education and how her project has tried to overcome them.

    Transcript:

    'I think in some cases schools were built without sufficient consultation with communities…Schools are seen as belonging to the government and insurgent groups I think are very interested in schools as a target rather than as a place of learning…our project is different because…we ask the community to provide a room. I think that provides a lot of resiliency because insurgents think twice about attacking a mosque where there’s a class of children or a home where there’s a class of children. I think in a lot of areas a school is more than people need. There aren’t enough children to fill it up. There aren’t enough teachers to work there. The Ministry of Education doesn’t have a budget to keep it running. I think sometimes good intentions are implemented maybe without thinking about sustainability.'

  • Economic Development

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    Ahmed Shakib Sakhizadeh, Deputy Executive Director of the Comprehensive Agriculture Rural Development Facility (CARD-F), describes one of the agricultural projects his organisation has been involved with.

    Transcript:

    '…Well the cucumber is another project which is also happening and being implemented in Nangarhar province. It’s an agriculture protected value chain which has construction of greenhouses…So far we have built around 120 of them and the people are taking very good harvest. We have managed to train people, farmers, increase their yields by almost…ten times. We have also linked them to market because this was one of the constraints of the agriculture sector, lack of information on market aspect of agriculture products.'

  • Improving Infrastructure and Key Services

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    Major Adam Jones, Chief of Staff of the Military Stabilisation Support Group, describes a construction project he was involved in and the role of the Military Stabilisation Support Group.

    Transcript:

    'What we did is we got local national contractors in and we built 93 checkpoints for the Afghan police and the army in a local method. So this is using local mud, local bricks, local tractors, it puts money into the local economy rather than using western tractors. Also the local people identify the project as being local, therefore they see the army and the police as being local working for them rather than being a force imposed on them. It’s making sure that the military understand the importance of the project from a civilian point of view and also the civilians understand any implications to the military. It’s really tying the two together.'

  • An Uncertain Future

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    Andy Corcoran, UK Head of Politics for the Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team (HPRT), highlights that there has been change in even the most problematic areas of Helmand but that the future of the situation is still unsettled.

    Transcript:

    '…In the central districts of Helmand there’s been enormous change…Even in the really difficult part of Helmand, which is the northern districts, you know, these places, Sangin and Musa Qala, Kajaki, even there, there has been change as well, positive change. The problem up there has been for ten years a very narrow political enfranchisement, and that’s been driving the insurgency…We’ve seen a broadening of that over time, so I think…the Afghan government can point to those things as progress, but it would be silly of me or anyone else to sit here and say it’s all sweetness and light…jury’s out to be honest…We’ll have to see. There are so many factors that will determine the outcome, so many complex factors. It’s just very, very hard to have a clear idea of what’s going to happen next…So it will be fascinating and a privilege to still be here while the election takes place and while the aftermath, or the result is still playing out, and to see how that relates to what comes next.'

  • Hope for the Future

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    Fazel Rabi Wardak, Director for Strategic Programs for the Asia Foundation, talks about Afghanistan’s development and his hopes for the transition in 2014.

    Transcript:

    'Afghans, and especially me as an Afghan, we always hope for the best. I think we have travelled a long way during these 12 years, and we have a number of achievements and improvements in the country, comparing that to the backward. I mean during the civil war and also the invasion of the Russians. I hope that this transition, the political transition, goes smoothly. I am hoping that the election will go very well. Still, we have some challenges. People are concerned about the withdrawal of the international community in 2014. I think, looking at the improvements that we have had during the 12 years, we hope for better and I hope that the election will go very well and we will be having a smooth transition in 2014.'