Posted By: Erica
On Monday I attended an ISAF-sponsored conference focused on Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT). The three-day conference is designed to orient a new rotation of PRT commanders to Afghanistan, and to allow existing commanders to touch base with ISAF leaders, government officials, or other organizations relevant to their work. They reserve one day of the three-day conference for “civilians” to attend. Topics discussed ranged from protecting historical sites, to infrastructure building techniques, to how PRTs can be involved in developing Afghanistan’s energy capacity.
I told any PRT commanders I met about CIVIC’s mission. I was pleased that they generally were interested in what I had to say, but also concerned that on the official conference program, few of the speakers discussed civilian casualty issues. Due to a last minute scheduling change, the director of the ACAP program for civilians (discussed in these past posts) was allowed a 10-minute discussion of the ACAP program. In response to one question following a presentation by the International Red Cross, one United Nations civil-military official was able to discuss the issue of how PRTs should be careful to be involved in emergency relief and humanitarian aid only as a measure of last resort.
Given this orientation, I now find it not so surprising that local PRT commanders I meet in the field seem unaware of about the programs CIVIC works with. There are so many priorities in Afghanistan, of course, and coordination and awareness are across-the-board problems here. Nonetheless, for me the take-away of the conference was how much more outreach and awareness raising is needed on issues of civilian casualties, particularly with those commanders who have the greatest ability to avoid civilian casualties or to help redress them