WEBSITE EXCLUSIVE: Lithuania viewed from Afghanistan

  • 2007-11-14
  • By Kimberly Kweder

WARM WELCOME: Ahmadi Baz Mohammad's team were made to feel at home in Lithuania (Ahmadi first on left)

TheGovernor of the Ghor Province Ahmadi BazMohammad made a working visit to Lithuania Nov. 12-16with seven delegates from his Ghor Provincial Recronstruction Team (PRT). Hespoke exclusively to The Baltic Timesabout his impressions and hopes for the future.

Howdo you view Lithuania's involvement inrebuilding the province?
The Lithuanian PRT in our province reallyhelps and we have good cooperation on security. As the name implies it shouldbe more involved in the reconstruction side of the province. We aren'tsatisfied so we also want to talk about the issue with the President andparliamentarians.

Sincethis is your first time in Lithuania, what have you found mostinteresting?
This is the first trip for all of us. We foundLithuania a very beautiful country and the people are very hospitable. It'sthe cold season, and the kindness of the people can help us overcome the coldclimate!

Whatare your most pressing needs in Afghanistan?
The needs are different from one provinceto another. In our province, more funding is needed in healthcare andagriculture but the top priority is road construction.

Whyis that top of the list?
Road construction is the top prioritybecause it opens the province to the other provinces in the country. What thepoor people in our province have is agricultural products. They can findmarkets for such products so the roads would help to improve living standardsof the people. When the roads are reconstructed, the people will be able to buymore [with the money that they are now earning] so prices will be lower and thestandard of living will increase. People will have access to other provincesfor marketing their products.

The construction of the roads also pavesthe way for other organizations, aid organizations and NGOs, to come to theprovince and do other development projects. The main point is they cannotaccess to the remote areas. They are not able to transport their equipment forprojects so that's why they're not interested in implementing any projects inthe provinces.

Another main point is that when there arecritically sick people we don't have well equipped hospitals and clinics in ourprovince. Roads connecting the provinces together would allow us to refer ourpatients to other provinces that have well-equipped hospitals and clinics. Itwould save lives.

The roads would help to maintain bettersecurity in the areas because security forces would then be able to have accessto areas of criminal activity.

Whenyou visit remote villages and schools, what are some of the observations youfind from students and families?
Actually 15 to 30 percent of the schools inour province have school buildings. So it means that the rest are in tentedschools or open air schools and the problem is that students are standing underthe sun or sitting on the wet ground. You don't see enough books. We don't haveprofessional teachers who have education in a particular subject. Also, wedon't have any libraries for students to study for exams. But fortunately, thepeople in the area are really taking care in one issue - security - so thattheir children can go to open air schools without any fear of being attacked.

Therewas a rocket attack in your province recently. Fortunately no-one was seriouslyinjured, but how safe is Ghor province?
Indeed our country has enemies. Thefundamentalists, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, are trying to show that security isnot good throughout our country. The explosion one month ago was the enemy'sinvestment of a year. After a year of planning they succeeded in firing somemissiles. Fortunately, there were no losses or damages. I don't have concernsabout it, comparing Ghor with other provinces, especially other neighboringprovinces; we are the safest because the people are not supporting the enemiesof the government. We have tried to identify who were behind the explosions andwill arrest them soon. All of these activities are planned and implemented bypeople not in Ghor province.

LithuanianDefense Minister Juozas Olekas said there is a possibility to train Afghanofficers in Lithuania. What are some of thelegal implications or funding necessary for such a move?
I'm not involved in that part of the issue. Thatwill be under discussion with the Minister of Defense. But what we havesuggested with our Lithuanian friends is that some Afghan police officers couldbe trained in Lithuania. Then, they can go back and train the police in Ghor. So it will behelpful.

Because we don't have well-trained police in our province, the main idea is thatsome of the officers, the talented ones, can go for a longer period of trainingfor three to six months [in Lithuania] and then go back to the province andtrain the police.

Whatdo you say to the growing unpopularity among Lithuanians of the missions in Afghanistan and Iraq?
So the situation in Afghanistan is different from Iraq. Wehave the international community in Afghanistan maintaining the security. We know that Al-Qaeda are not justenemies of our country. They are enemies of our world. Doing a mission in Afghanistan means that you're not only assisting us to maintain our securitybut somehow you are maintaining your security and taking part in worldsecurity. So hopefully, this Lithuanian mission will continue and they will assistus to maintain security and have a part in maintaining peace and the stabilityin all over the world.

The world is like a village. If there is aproblem or insecurity in a corner of this village, it affects the wholevillage.

We have good cooperation, security and along-lasting relationship but what is being done with reconstruction, we shouldhave more activities as the name implies."