By KANDI HUGGINS
Col. Bill Ostlund, commander, Combined Task Force Duke, and local government officials held a men’s shura in Nawbahar province, Sunday.
About 200 local men attended along with the district governor, members of CTF Duke, provincial officials, including the deputy provincial governor, directorate of women’s affairs, Afghan National Security Forces and the Jordanian Cultural Adviser Team.
“I go to shuras and I listen and I have elders saying ‘If you don’t give me this and you don’t give me that, I’m going to join the Taliban,” said Ostlund. “And I ask them what does the Taliban give you besides chaos and misery? Do they give you schools? Do they give you opportunities to have education? I’ve been in every province in Afghanistan and I have yet to see a hospital saying built by the Taliban.”
He said the men present were responsible for protecting their land, women and wealth.
When the Taliban threatens them, Ostlund said it is the locals’ responsibility to stand up and defend themselves so they can get projects done and secure a better life for the present generation and the future.
The purpose of the shura was for the local population to discuss a recent Afghan National Army operation in the district advised by CTF Duke elements, as well as future plans for supporting the International Security Assistance Forces in the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
The shura also provided an opportunity for the JCAT imans and mullahs—religious leaders—to discuss views on Islam and the Koran, and to provide local mullahs with better education and viewpoints of their interpretation of Islam.
“You need security and governance and population support to get more security and better governance to get more projects for the population; it’s a circle that keeps going,” said Ostlund.
As an example, he took an index card to explain why a lot of projects have not been possible in the Nawbahar province.
The card represented the money available to fund projects.
As incidents occurred, such as vehicles getting hit by explosive devices or soldiers and civilians needing to be medically evacuated, funds must then be allocated to cover those expenses.
With every incident, a piece of the card was torn off until it was almost half of its original size.
“We say we’re going to build a school…we’re going to build a road… and a clinic,” said Ostlund. “(Well) we start riding our vehicles over here and it gets blown up then we have to take some of that money from over here and pay for new vehicles. Soldiers and civilians get hurt and the government calls for helicopters to rescue them. Helicopters spend a lot of gas so I have to pay for that… We pay for that and that is where your road and clinic and schools are.”
He said the choice is theirs if they want money to go into security, evacuating Soldiers and buying vehicles, or if they want it to go into projects for their population.
“The outcome was good,” said Maj. Kyle Goodridge, civil affairs officer. “We were able to publicize the successful efforts of the ANSF in clearing the district of IEDs and other threats.”
Goodridge said it was also successful with the population being able to interact with the deputy provincial governor, DOWA and several provincial level officials who rarely go to the district. It was an opportunity to better connect the population with their government.