March 20, 2012 —
The Shinkai district governor, Noor Mohammad, addresses an audience of village elders from the Surri area of the Shinkai district in Zabul province, Afghanistan, Forward Operating Base Grizzly, March 11, 2012.(Photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Brandenburg)
FORWARD OPERATING BASE LAGMAN, Afghanistan (March 20, 2012) — Heavy snowstorms, deep mud and a river crossing swelling with snow-melt had kept the newly appointed district governor at bay since he took office of the Shinkai district.
Understanding that it is his duty to serve the Afghans of his district and hearing their voice, Noor Mohammed, managed to make his way through the pass in the Sur Ghar Mountain Range and held his first shura on the Surri side of the Shinkai district.
Mohammad has held many shuras in the southern half of the district, but he has never held a shura in the northern part of the Shinkai district in Zabul province, Afghanistan. This is due to the Sur Ghar Mountain Range, which divides his district nearly in half.
The mountain range only has one pass carved into it and that pass is the only way from the southern to the northern half of the district.
Upon arriving at Forward Operating Base Grizzly, Mohammad wasted no time meeting with the Afghan National Army company commander, district chief of police, Romanian company commander and U.S. Army company/troop commanders. A few moments later he greeted local village elders from the surrounding area as they began to arrive to hear his message and voice their concerns.
Over 25 elders and prominent village leaders from the surrounding area attended the meeting, which was focused on getting the support of the local populace and telling them how the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Afghan National Security Forces and International Security Assistance Forces can help the villagers. Mohammed stated that GIRoA, ANSF and ISAF wanted to hear the voice of the people in the Surri region and that they were there to support the people of the district.
Mohammed went on to address the importance of ANSF and ISAF patrolling the local villages in order to keep the populace safe from insurgents. He also discussed the opening of new schools and the significance of an education.
“We are trying to help your kids go to school and get an education,” said Mohammed. “[You must] look towards your kids’ future.”
He addressed the unity of the district, as many local Afghans believe that the Shinkai district is broken into 2 halves, the southern half being the Shinkai district and the northern half being an unofficial district called “Surri.”
Mohammed hopes that the people of the district will come together and become the first line of defense in their villages against insurgent activities. He wants them to help ANSF and ISAF keep their villages safe from unwanted violence by identifying new faces or suspicious activities.
“If you [local Afghans] see new faces in the area, you have to ask them ‘Who are they? Where do they come from? What do they do here?’” said Mohammed.
The shura helped show the involvement that GIRoA wants with the people of the district and how the Afghan Government will help them improve their villages.
“They will have more faith in the GIRoA, because they see his face, they see all the other leaders there coming together,” said Capt. Joseph Mickley, commander, Battle Company, 5th Battalion 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron 14th Cavalry Regiment. “Overall it’s a good thing.”
All the projects and events that GIRoA and the populace want accomplished in the district, Mohammed will have a direct hand in.
“GIRoA doesn’t want things that the people don’t want,” added Mickley.
Mickley went on to say sometimes it’s just a matter of exact location, the people will want a checkpoint but they do not want it near a certain place, or they will want to open a school but want their children to go to a school in a different town.
Governor Mohammed is working to unify the Shinkai district and legitimize GIRoA and the ANSF, specifically in the eyes of the villagers in the Surri region. GIRoA influence has long been absent in this area so the people have not been able to voice their grievances to anyone. Governor Mohammed is changing that dynamic and listening to the people.
“It’s just bringing somebody to bring those [issues] all together, and understanding the entire populace,” said Mickley. “That’s what the district governor is supposed to do.”