News - July 5, 2007

Prof visits Uruzgan

Professor of Humanitarian Aid and Reconstruction, Thea Hilhorst, paid a three-day visit last week to the Dutch peace-keeping force in Uruzgan. Together with members of the Dutch press, she talked at length with General Dick Berlijn, as well as with Afghan ministers, NGOs and military representatives.

Hilhorst is reasonably positive about the Dutch contribution to the Nato ISAF mission in Afghanistan. ‘They are working hard on the reconstruction effort, especially the security apparatus of army and police.’ However, public debate in the Netherlands about the mission is far too simplistic, in Hilhorst’s opinion. ‘There is a lot of fighting, but it is not a fighting mission. On the other hand, it’s not just a peace mission either. Nor is it about the number of schools that are built. If only it were that simple. It’s a security mission aimed at building up the army and police so that they can maintain law and order on their own in the future. But that can’t be done without rebuilding the Afghan government, as the big question is whether this will be capable of controlling the army in the near future.’

Progress is being made on building up the Afghan security apparatus, says Hilhorst, but it’s behind schedule. It’s difficult to find recruits willing to work in Uruzgan for example. But in Hilhorst’s view, the real failure is the lack of focus on the police. ‘There is now an interesting development in which auxiliary police are being trained. These are local men who keep order in their own village. This has potential, but the question is who controls and manages these men? They can also become mini-potentates. But it could also be the start of local reconstruction.’