Diplomats visit new Provincial Reconstruction Team in Panjshir province

Diplomats of various countries have visited the first Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) headed by a US civilian in the northern Panjshir province to observe reconstruction efforts in the area, a statement by the US-led Coalition forces said on Sunday.

"Government officials from 13 different nations and the European Union were briefed about reconstruction projects by Combined Joint Task Force-76 (CJTF-76) Army Commander Maj Gen Jason Kamiya before visiting the Panjshir PRT," the statement said.

"The day highlighted how Coalition military and civilian agencies, whether Coalition or not, can and should provide effective mutual support on the security and humanitarian fronts," said Richard Smyth, CJTF-76 Political Adviser.

A joint effort between the members of CJTF-76 and the US Embassy in the capital Kabul, headed by Fletcher Burton, a US Department of State civilian, the Panjshir PRT is the first of its kind in the post-conflict country.

"Today we had a very interesting visit to Bagram Airfield and then to Panjshir to see how the American PRT is doing,” said Regis Koetschet, French Ambassador to Afghanistan. "The visit was a good opportunity to see this new type of integration of military and civilian agencies," Koetschet noted.

According to Mike Cody, Coalition forces spokesman in Kabul, the PRT, like other PRTs in the country, was engaged in projects to improve the lives of Afghans and further economic opportunity.

"Its largest project so far is a 75-km road from the Panjshir Valley to Kabul, which will cost about US $18 million, funded by Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan and the US Agency for International Development (USAID)," Cody told IRIN, adding: "Around 300 Afghans are working on the two-year project, which is scheduled for completion in about a year."

During the summer of 2002, US officials developed the PRT concept to spread the effect of the International Security Assistance Force to Afghanistan (ISAF), without expanding ISAF itself.

First established in early 2003, PRTs consisted of 60 to 100 soldiers plus, then eventually, Afghan advisers and representatives from civilian agencies like the US State Department, USAID and the US Department of Agriculture. Representatives from more than a dozen countries are now participating in over 20 PRTs to enhance security, reconstruction and support the Afghan central government.