Civil-Military Cooperation in Afghanistan
At the end of 2008, there were more than 52,000 soldiers from 40 nations in Afghanistan. Germany, with about 4,500, was the third largest provider of troops. Of the 26 Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs), two were led by Germany, namely those in Kunduz and Faizabad. These civilian-military units are comprised of some 50 to 500 persons and are always led jointly by a member of the military and a civilian. They are supposed to provide security and to facilitate reconstruction. But they also serve the propaganda
purpose of demonstrating the viability of such civilian-military cooperation by building schools and drilling wells.
In practice, however, there are massive problems:
1. Afghanistan does not need a large number of wells but rather large-scale infrastructure – old dams and irrigation systems have to be fixed.
2. Soldiers are not trained as development aid workers.
3. They remain on site for eight months at the longest – much too short a time to identify local problems.
4. Development activity is indirectly militarized.
In October 2007 and October 2008, in two statements by the Association of German Development NGOs (VENRO) that were backed by representatives of organizations working in Afghanistan – Caritas, German Agro Action, medico, medica mondiale, and others – the commingling of civilian and military aid in the Provincial Reconstruction Teams was criticized: “The mixture of civilian and military tasks has resulted in ever greater risks for NGOs that strive for neutrality. In recent years, some NGOs have suspended their aid in Afghanistan – among other reasons because the military’s utilization of the humanitarian mandate means that aid can no longer be provided independently.” The authors of the paper, therefore, argue vehemently for a change in reconstruction strategy: priority to civilian construction; ending Operation Enduring Freedom; ISAF to focus on its core mission of peacekeeping and disarming the militias; return of ISAF to UN authority; separation of military deployment and civilian emergency and development aid – disband the PRTs; consistent protection of girls and women.