Troops hold a ‘shura’ with villagers and elders in southern Helmand Province, Afghanistan, during Operation Moshtarak.
KABUL (Feb. 16, 2010) — The key objectives of Operation Moshtarak, driving out the insurgents and extending the influence of the Afghan Government, are being achieved, despite mine and IED levels higher than anticipated.
Speaking to the media via satellite link from Helmand, British Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, commander of ISAF Regional Command (South) in Afghanistan, and Lindy Cameron, head of the Multi-National Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Helmand, have said that the deliverance of governance and reconstruction is already beginning in areas such as shuras (community meetings), reconciliation and "cash for work" programs.
The objectives of Operation Moshtarak are to improve security and freedom of movement within the main population areas of central Helmand. Carter said the operation is "at the end of the beginning," but a significant number of improvised explosive devices would require meticulous and thorough clearing that would take some time to conclude.
By securing the key population centers and economic arteries in southern Afghanistan, it is planned that Afghan security forces and their ISAF partners will pave the way for greater economic development and growth of governance.
Immediate stabilization activities, led by the PRT, will follow on in areas as soon as possible after the clearing phase of the operation.
On the initial clearance phase, Carter said it had gone better than expected and that all 11 objectives were taken in the first few hours of the operation, which happened on a pitch black night with no accidents.
In the key area of Marjah, he said approximately two-thirds had now been cleared and that the rest would take several more days.
He said a shura had taken place between the Afghan Government and local leaders in the Nad 'Ali district on Feb. 11, ahead of the clearing phase of the operation, to inform them what would happen — and that when the Government enforced its control over Nad 'Ali it would result in betterment and the deliverance of the services they would expect.
From that shura other "sub-shuras" were arranged in areas such as reintegration, and one to act as a reference group to help and advise the Governor and Deputy Governor of Helmand on the reconstruction phase.
On reintegration, Carter used as an example an Afghan insurgent who had been taken back to his village by the Afghan Government and assurances received from his family in return for his release.
Looking forward to the hold stage of the operation, Carter said 1,000 Afghan Gendarmerie (formerly known as the Afghan National Civil Order Police) had been moved to the region and would remain there for four months while 1,000 new Afghan National Police officers a month were being trained.
Moving to the reconstruction and stabilization phase of the operation, Lindy Cameron of the PRT said the next phase was to assess damage to buildings and services but more importantly to set up political outreach to discover what kind of services local people wanted the Afghan Government to supply.
However, Cameron said that in northern Nad 'Ali they have found so far that the infrastructure has not been badly damaged and the local population is relatively well off, so is not as dependent on compensation or seeking as much in the way of short-term "cash for work" programs.
As a result the reconstruction plan in northern Nad 'Ali will be altered in co-operation with the local population.
Carter said four ISAF/Afghan National Army servicemen had died so far during the operation, and 35 had been wounded.