( dpa ) - The Czech Republic is to dispatch 10 civilian experts and up to 200 troops in early March to handle reconstruction and development efforts in the central Afghan province of Logar, officials said Monday.
"Working with the inhabitants is most important, so people see that we are not some occupation power, that we do not want to play war but that we want to help," Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg told reporters at a press conference televised by CT24 news channel.
The so-called Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) is to work in the province south-east of Kabul for "at least a year", the head of its civilian unit Vaclav Pecha said.
His team includes construction engineers, agriculture and water- management specialists and a veterinarian, whose work will be complicated by poor infrastructure, harsh weather and security conditions.
The Czechs plan to finish projects begun by the US projects to rebuild schools and clinics, he said. "During that time we will try to focus on agriculture, which forms the backbone of the Logar economy," Pecha said.
Unlike elsewhere in Afghanistan, weather conditions prevent Logar farmers from growing poppy seed for illegal opiate production.
Czech troops have served in various NATO and US-led missions in Afghanistan since 2002. They had joined German and Danish servicemen in the German-led PRT in the north-eastern province of Badakhstan between 2004 and 2007.
The Czech Republic plans to boost its presence in Afghanistan to up to 415 soldiers in 2008.