KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Residents of Arghandab District came together in celebration, April 1, as villagers and International Security Assistance Forces participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new mosque in Tarok Kolache.
The mosque is the first completed structure in a massive joint reconstruction effort by Tarok Kolache landowners and ISAF since the village, previously a Taliban stronghold, was destroyed, October 2010, in an effort to rid it of insurgents and large quantities of improvised explosive devices.
“Before Afghan and coalition forces cleared this area, farmers and residents were unable to get safely to their orchards and homes,” said Dr. Tooryalai Wesa, governor of Kandahar province. “Now the villagers and farmers feel safe and are eager to return to their homes and help rebuild their village.”
1st Battalion, 1-320th Field Artillery Regiment, Combined Task Force ‘Top Guns’, partnered with a commander with 1st Afghan National Army Battalion, 1st ANA Brigade, 205th Hero Corps prior to beginning construction efforts in order to establish a combat outpost in Tarok Kolache, said Lt. Col David S. Flynn, commander, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, currently attached to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. “The new outpost was built to prevent Taliban intimidation and demonstrate the combined joint task force’s commitment to security and reconstruction efforts in the village.”
“The process to rebuild the mosque was developed by Tarok Kolache landowners and residents with little assistance from CTF ‘Top Guns’,” said Capt. Patrick McGuigan, battalion fire support officer assigned to 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, ‘Top Guns’, 101st Airborne Division, currently attached to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.
1-320th FA facilitated conversation between landowners and potential contractors, said McGuigan. After collectively picking a contractor to rebuild the mosque, a ground-breaking ceremony was conducted and landowners began supervising the day-to-day rebuilding of the mosque with help of local residents.
The process of the rebuild and the strategy designed to implement steps in that process allowed landowners to rebuild the village in a manner they deemed suitable, said McGuigan. Workers continue to take huge risks in working to rebuild the village, but are not intimidated as they overcome the daily adversities that come with such a monumental task.
“This time last year, we were unable to even think about building a mosque in Tarok Kolache,” said Dr. Wesa. “Now, thanks to the support, hard work, dedication and sacrifice of our security forces, governance, security and development are strong here.”
Flynn, who has been working on governance, development and reconstruction efforts in the village for nearly a year, echoed the governor’s sentiments.
“We continue on a daily basis to remove improvised explosive devices and munitions caches from Tarok Kolache,” said Flynn. “Our constant commitment is to eliminate battle intimidation and capture insurgents while, at the same time, reconstructing the village. It's a process that will continue well into the tour of the next unit.”
Though the mosque opening ceremony is a huge success in the reconstruction process of Tarok Kolache, there is still much work to be done to help the village get back on its feet, said McGuigan.
Future plans for Tarok Kolache include finishing the rebuilding process for every home destroyed and identifying projects that will make land in and around the village more valuable, said McGuigan.
The process of making the land more valuable means improving the production of agriculture in the area, as well as improving efficiency in exporting crops from the surrounding fields to local markets, said McGuigan. These plans will help stimulate economic development throughout Arghandab District and lead to the sustained security and continued redevelopment of the valley.
Throughout the reconstruction process, landowners and residents of Tarok Kolache have worked side-by-side with soldiers from CTF ‘Top Guns’ in order to build their village back stronger, more secure and more productive than it was before the Taliban took it over, said McGuigan.
That partnership was evident after a soldier from ‘Top Guns’ was killed as his team attempted to remove an improvised explosive device located near the village, said McGuigan. Village elders and residents of Tarok Kolache were devastated and, in a heartwarming show of support, attended the memorial ceremony of Staff Sgt. Eric S. Trueblood, to honor his sacrifice to the security and reconstruction of the village.
“There has been much sacrifice involved in raising Tarok Kolache up again,” said Dr. Wesa. “Today we honor that sacrifice and begin a new day, where the people here can grow their crops and go about their lives in peace and harmony.”