Afghan Second Vice President Karim Khalili visited the former Taliban stronghold of Marjah to meet local residents. Also attending were Helmand Governor Mohammed Gulab Mangal, NATO Ambassador Mark Sedwill and Commander of ISAF Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
MARJAH, Afghanistan (Mar. 1, 2010) - Afghanistan's Second Vice President, Karim Khalili, and Helmand Governor, Mohammed Ghulab Mangal, today visited Marjah in Central Helmand to meet with local residents and Afghan security forces.
This is the most senior visit of Afghan Government and NATO-ISAF officials since joint Afghan and international security forces commenced clearing the area of insurgents several weeks ago.
This visit enabled the Vice President to engage with hundreds of local residents who gathered at the District Centre and to hear their views, hopes and concerns for the future. Following steady but sure progress by Afghan and international forces in clearing the Marjah area of insurgents and the explosive devices they left behind, Mr. Khalili conveyed the determination of the Afghan Government to bring sustained security, improved governance and economic and social development to the area. He made clear that the Government of Afghanistan will maintain a strong and enduring presence in the area. He stated that those who continued to oppose peace and security would be pursued vigourously, but that the Government would support fighters who chose to lay down their arms and to rejoin society. He called on all the residents to join and support the Government's efforts to enable progress for the benefit of all.
Following a long period with little influence or investment from the Government in Marjah, many local residents took the opportunity to question and challenge the Vice President and Governor on their specific concerns. Many welcomed the improved security to the area and the recent deployment of the Afghan National Civil Order Police, but also expressed concerns over the previous behaviour and standard of the Afghan National Uniformed Police who will eventually be deployed to the District. In addition, residents were anxious to hear the details of how and when more concrete support from the Government would arrive to rebuild the community given the insurgents who previously controlled the area failed to do so.
Vice President Khalili and Governor Mangal were joined by NATO Senior Civilian representative, Ambassador Mark Sedwill, and COMISAF, General Stanley McChrystal. General McChrystal took the opportunity to meet with the Afghan Security Forces and ISAF soldiers and congratulate them on their achievements so far:
"This is just a first step but it's been an amazingly good first step. If you look at what both Afghan and ISAF forces did, how little damage was done and how few civilians were harmed and yet how many are now protected it's certainly amazing. The restraint, the maturity, the professionalism, that's what jumps out at me and I don't think that's lost on the Afghans either," he said.
Ambassador Sedwill welcomed the visit by Vice President Khalili and put the operation into its political context:
"What we've seen in the Marjah operation for the first time, is central Government really engaging in an operation of this kind. In the past these have been done at the provincial level and by the local police forces and the local army. For this operation we've had the central Government directly engaged."