Thursday, August 20, 2009

Afghan elders meet to discuss governance, future of district

Capt. Jose Vasquez, commander, C Troop, 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, greets local elders as they arrive at the mega shura, or large meeting, July 27 at the Kherwar District Center. During the shura, local elders voiced their concerns with the district, and Logar Provincial Governor Attiqullah Lodin talked about plans to pave roads and build hospitals and schools within the district.
Photo by Spec. Jaime De Leon
By Spec. Jaime D. De Leon
Task Force Spartan Journalist

LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Logar Provincial Governor Attiqullah Lodin spoke with the sub-governor and local elders about plans to bring a stronger government presence to the district during a mega shura, or a large meeting, July 27 at the Kherwar District Center.However, Lodin doesn’t plan to change Kherwar on his own. He hopes to gain support of all the people of Kherwar, while continuing to work with International Security Assistance Forces.
“This time is the time of opportunities,” Lodin said. “Let’s take these opportunities now and build a future for our children. I am telling you now, let’s work together, shoulder to shoulder.”
Part of Lodin’s plan for Kherwar involves upgrading infrastructure. Kherwar currently has dirt roads and a district center made of metal containers and mud huts.“Kherwar is far from Logar and government,” Lodin said. “If you’re driving on dirt, it takes three to four hours to get to Logar. When we get the roads paved, it will take 20 minutes.”
His plans for building do not end with building roads.“We can build hospitals for our wives and our children,” Lodin said, adding that he also hopes to build more schools. But, roads and buildings can’t change everything.
Fighting between ISAF troops and local insurgents, as well as among local residents, also has been a problem.“If people are having problems, have them come to me,” Lodin said. “Let’s solve problems with talking, not guns and fighting.”Lodin doesn’t want to give up on his countrymen who are currently fighting. He wants them to join together in the effort to improve Afghanistan.
“Tell the people who are fighting to throw down their weapons and come join us,” Lodin said. “I promise I will not harm them.”Lodin also made a point of letting the people of Kherwar know that ISAF is part of the solution, not a part of the problem. In a crowd of men who are old enough to remember the Russian invasion, Lodin made sure to make a clear distinction between the former Soviet superpower and the current foreign forces.
“The Russians were here to colonize and make us part of their kingdom,” Lodin said. “ISAF is here as our guest, to help us. They left their brothers and sisters and children far away.” Lodin also reiterated the fact that Soldiers were there to help and not hurt the people of Kherwar.
With so many plans for the future, Soldiers of 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, who currently occupy Combat Outpost Cherokee, just a quick walk from the Kherwar District Center, have no plans to leave anytime soon.
With Kherwar’s security improving, the unit will maintain a presence to ensure the progress made at the shura does not backslide. Before ISAF troops moved into Kherwar District, there was some apprehension from local residents and Soldiers. Residents were afraid to work with troops out of fear for enemy retaliation, and service members were worried about starting missions because of the reputation that preceded it.
"We believed that Kherwar was the ultimate boogey man, but things are starting to change here, now that we have started to focus more on the area," said Lt. Col. Thomas Gukeisen, Task Force Iron Titan commander.
"We're executing projects, we've conducted security operations to increase security in Kherwar, and today we had between 53 and 58 elders from the Kherwar bowl,” said Col. David B. Haight, Task Force Spartan commander.“This leadership was willing to come in here and talk to this group (of elders) in this area with a sense of security. That couldn't have happened 90 days ago.
"With the Afghan elections around the corner, reassurances of ISAF troops and the local government help to bolster the people of Afghanistan.“I feel very proud, coming down here to meet the brave people of Kherwar,” Lodin said. “The first time I came to Kherwar (as the governor), people came to me with their problems. I’m glad they came to me, I want to help. “The people of Kherwar have the right to voice their complaints, and I am here to back them up,” he concluded.
2 days till Scout Sighting

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