News: Renewed bazaar a sign of progress in Kajaki
Story by Sgt. Jacob Harrer
TANGYE BAZAAR, Afghanistan – When Maj. Joseph R. Jackson arrived here in October 2011, the bazaar was almost completely abandoned. More than 400 stalls lay empty except for a lone bakery supplying bread to the Afghan Uniformed Police and local nationals. Since then, businesses have began opening in the bazaar as Kajaki residents felt safe and optimistic enough to return for the first time since 2006.
“The Tangye Bazaar is in a state of rejuvenation,” said Jackson, the lead governance and development advisor with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. “Right now… there are shops reopening in the Tangye Bazaar, and this is an incredibly encouraging sign. The people are slowly coming back to the bazaar. It has tremendous potential, and we’re seeing people come back, reopening shops, and doing this on their own. It’s showing us that the economy has a chance of revitalizing itself.”
The Tangye Bazaar is located next to the Helmand River and bordering the Zamindawar farmlands to the north. It was built shortly after the Soviet occupation ended here, said Jackson, a native of Cincinnati and a History, and Diplomacy and Foreign Affairs major from Miami University in Ohio.
“I remember when the bazaar was open and very crowded,” said Lt. Col. Hajji Mahfuzallah, the AUP Kajaki district chief of police. “There were many shops, and the civilians worked with the government.”
After the reemergence of insurgent forces, the British arrived between 2005 and 2006 to recapture the Kajaki Dam. The bazaar became a battlefield, and because of insurgent propaganda and the intense fighting, people abandoned their businesses.
Many parts of the bazaar remained untouched since then, and most of the stalls still remain empty. A broken down Jeep Grand Cherokee rusts at the side of the road, and scraps of metal and trash are scattered around. However, merchants are starting to open shop.
“I have a lot of pain in my heart seeing the bazaar right now, but hopefully with security, more people will return and it will become the same bazaar it used to be,” added Mahfuzallah.
According to Jackson, in the fall of 2011, 1st Bn., 6th Marines cleared the area around the Helmand River and pushed insurgents north into Zamindawar with Operation Eastern Storm. By December 2011, conditions improved enough for 45-year-old Dande Jan to open a general store at the south entrance to the Tangye Bazaar, he said. He lived very far away, but once insurgents left, he travelled to the bazaar and set up his shop, hoping to make a lot of money. Dande Jan is betting on more people arriving as security improves.
Several other businesses opened in the Tangye Bazaar, Jackson explained. Next to the general store is a photography studio where Kajaki residents can go to get photographs for identification cards and personal portraits. A mechanic and a construction company arrived, and a bakery opened one month ago. Several shops are currently being renovated, including a gas station.
Jackson said commerce is a key indicator of stability in Kajaki. It shows that people are willing to invest in the area and work with the government to improve their own conditions.
“The Tangye Bazaar, and the improved amounts of commerce are a sign of economic health,” said Jackson. “The people have the freedom of movement, and they have the ability to go out and buy their own things and not worry about intimidation from [insurgents]. The fact that they have the money to be able to spend and purchase items is in itself a sign that economic stability is heading in a good direction. It’s a sign that there’s progress and a chance for people to engage the local government.”
Editor's Note: The 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 6, which is a part of Task Force Leatherneck. First Marine Division (Forward) heads Task Force Leatherneck, the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest), and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.