Polish and U.S. representatives from the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) visited the main Ghazni hospital in May to participate in a working group meeting with doctors and hospital administrators.
Here's a female Polish doctor from the PRT sitting next to physician's assistant from the U.S. National Guard. The green and tan digital camouflage uniform in the foreground is what most Americans wear. (Here's an interesting article from The Atlantic about why digital camo is actually better at fooling the eye than traditional swirly/tiger stripes camo.)
The purpose of the meeting was to set priorities and action items for hospital projects with the funds allocated by the central government. At least, that's what the PRT thought going in. The Afghans are (unfortunately) used to handing over a list of projects, which the PRT dutifully gets to work on. This means things get built but it is obviously not a long term solution. The Afghans are still getting used to the idea of working with a central bureaucracy. The PRT is trying to transition to a support role, and is encouraging the Afghans to take the lead — teaching them to work through their local government channels. It's difficult and slow going. For example:
Afghans: "But the PRT could just do this for us, that would be easier."
PRT reps: "We aren't going to do that anymore. You have money from your government and you have to find out how much you have, and set priorities. We can help fund the gap."
Afghans: "But we don't even know how much our budget from Kabul is. We've never gotten money from them."
PRT reps: "You have to ask your local district represenative about your budget, and we can go from there."
Afghans: "We don't even know who that is."
Another Afghan: "I think it's [so-and-so], but I sent him a letter two months ago and haven't heard anything or seen him."
This meeting did however end on a positive note — the Afghan doctors were an impressive bunch; It was clear many of them understood English and a few even spoke it quite well. There were two women in attendance, who confidently smiled and shook my hand as they walked in before the meeting began. Everyone around the table took turns listening to others speak. They provided a generous amount of delicious weak tea, and tasty cakes and candies for their visitors. Very kind, considering Afghan meetings are known to go on for hours, and this one was no exception.
These were smart, educated people, and I could sense they understood what was being asked of them. They didn't appear to shy away from the challenge.
More pictures from the meeting here.