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KABUL, Afghanistan — Through the first three months of 2005, provincial reconstruction teams have promised more than $60 million to fund projects across Afghanistan.

Col. Guy Sands, the highest-ranking civil affairs officer in the country, said Monday that amount should be more than doubled by the end of the year.

“All the things Afghan citizens need to restore their normal lives,” Sands said, characterizing the array of projects at a news conference in Kabul.

Projects range from a $2.5 million burn treatment center that the provincial reconstruction teams, or PRT, in Herat is funding alongside French nongovernmental agencies to “projects that cost a few thousand dollars, but have an immediate impact on their province.”

A new PRT in Laghman province, east of Kabul, becomes the 20th in the country. Six are run by other coalition partners, with two more in the west of the country designated for Spain and Lithuania. Sands said the number of American PRTs has grown from four to 14 in the last year.

Since coalition forces entered Afghanistan in late 2001, more than 16,000 infrastructure projects have been started, he said.

Asked by local journalists to explain what PRTs are and what they do, Sands described them as a small force of civil affairs soldiers, an even smaller force-protection element and a few civilian personnel assigned to agencies, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The teams, in conjunction with local governors, assess a province’s needs, then fund a number of projects until the money they receive from their respective governments runs out.

“You could always use more money,” said Sands, a reservist who is a professor of political economics at the University of South Carolina. But he said $1 million is worth a lot more in a place such as Afghanistan than it is in the United States or Europe.

Because PRTs attempt to buy most of the materials used in their projects within Afghanistan — building up local businesses in the process — Sands said he thinks a slow and steady flow of funds might suit the country best.

Sands said he believes PRTs will expand into more of the country’s 34 administrative provinces. But he says the nature of the PRTs might be changing in the next few years as well.

“PRTs are an ends to a means,” he said. “What we want to do over the next few years is demilitarize them. Get them in civilian hands as the Afghans are able to take over.”

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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