First peace shura held in recently liberated insurgent stronghold
Just over a week after British and Afghan forces launched a major operation into an insurgent stronghold in Helmand, more than a hundred local people have attended a shura in the newly liberated village to discuss how to rebuild their livelihoods.
The area of Loy Mandeh in Nad-e Ali had been described by senior officers as the ‘last ulcer’ in the protected community that’s been created in Central Helmand. The area, which straddles the boundaries of three districts has been home to insurgents who have threatened and intimidated the population. The area’s once bustling bazaar is now a deserted, barren wasteland and locals have been driven from their homes in fear.
At the end of May, Afghan National Army (ANA) warriors, supported by British Royal Marines and soldiers launched an assault on the area to drive the insurgents out and restore security to the lives of the people of Loy Mandeh, Kopak and Maljir. Operation OMID HAFT, which had been planned and led by the ANA’s 3/215 Corps with International Security Assistance Forces in support has not only succeeded in pushing back the insurgents, it has also won over the people living in the area.
Earlier this week, just days after the start of the operation, more than a hundred key community figures and village elders attended a shura in the village of Loy Mandeh Kalay hosted by the District Governor. All the security was provided by the Afghan National Security Forces with members of the Police searching people on arrival and the Army providing a cordon around the shura.
At the meeting, held in the centre of the village, District Governor Habibullah spoke passionately and enthusiastically about his plans to redevelop the area and return it to its former state. He encouraged locals to register shop ownership with the Mayor and asked everyone to help do their part to restore prosperity to the previously ravaged village.
District Governor Habibullah’s key message to the group was clear:
“The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan can provide for you where the Taliban have failed.”
The Commanding Officer of 42 Commando Royal Marines, who have played a key role in liberating the area during Operation OMID HAFT, attended the shura to hear the locals’ response to the military action.
Lt Col Ewen Murchison said:
“Many of the people here had been forced to flee from their homes up into the Bowri area to escape the insurgents. Their willingness to return to their village and so soon after it had been liberated and in such numbers is an encouraging sign that there is a genuinely strong appetite among the people for change. It’s clear they all want to help so that business and commerce can to return to Loy Mandeh in the near future. The presence of the Government of Afghanistan, supported by ISAF has demonstrably improved the quality of their lives.”
Work on the development projects discussed at the shura is already underway. Local contractors have been employed to start the clearance of the old, derelict shops. Royal Engineers from the Counter Improvised Explosive Device (IED) Task Force have cleared more than eighteen IEDs from the village to ensure the routes are safe to facilitate the safe passage of people, equipment and materials needed for the project.
Tim Gurney is the Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team’s Stabilisation Advisor to Combined Force Nad-e Ali North:
“The shura in Loy Mandeh Kalay was a huge step forward. With the recent removal of the Taliban, for the first time for some years District Governor Habibullah was able to visit and speak directly to the community and hear their concerns. The District Governor offered the help and support of the Afghan government in rebuilding the community and thanked ISAF for their support.”