About the Author: Jennifer Galt serves as Public Affairs Advisor at the U.S. Mission to NATO.
During his trip to Brussels, Paris, and The Hague on a USNATO-sponsored program, Afghan Governor Abdul Jabar Naeemi shared his struggles and triumphs in Khost Province with NATO and EU leaders, French and Dutch government officials, the press and civil society in a very real, concrete way, hammering home the importance of Europe's continued support to Afghanistan. While speaking with a wide range of audiences in these three European capitals, Governor Naeemi adopted a personal tone, sharing stories from his own experiences and emphasizing the progress that European efforts have made possible in Afghanistan.
At every stop on his trip, Governor Naeemi highlighted the successes taking root in Khost Province and throughout Afghanistan. The Governor took on a whirlwind schedule, including everything from an interview with BBC World and a meeting with European Parliament leaders -- who stated that they rarely heard directly from Afghans -- to a discussion at a prominent Dutch think tank and a briefing for the Chairman of NATO's Military Committee. His firsthand account of day-to-day situations, challenges, and improvement in his province raised awareness among government officials and the NATO public. The positive outcomes of international assistance were central to his discussions on education, community development, health and security.
On the topic of education, he revealed that 177,000 students, including 40,000 girls, are attending school in his province. More than 25,000 young people participate in a provincial sports program that has cricket, soccer and volleyball tournaments regularly, even in the most volatile districts. He also said that whereas six months ago tribal elders were most concerned about security, they are now asking for more schools, health clinics and roads to be built in their communities. He reminded his audiences that citizens in NATO's 28 member countries and the people of Afghanistan share a common enemy, and that the people of Afghanistan, like people everywhere, want progress and a better future for their children. Through specific examples, personal stories, and a discussion of the needs of ordinary people, the Governor was able to connect his European audiences to the topic at hand in a very personal and highly effective manner.
The direct reports offered by Afghan Governor Naeemi proved invaluable in balancing the negative and misinformed picture of a lack of progress in Afghanistan routinely portrayed in the media. Hearing from the Governor himself allowed for an honest account of the benefits that international assistance has been making in helping Afghans build capacity in education, rule of law, economic development and other areas necessary to establish a strong and secure society.