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    Afghan government leaders join Nawa, Marjeh citizens in historic first meeting



    Story by Sgt. Brian Tuthill 

    Regimental Combat Team-7

    NAWA, Afghanistan — Dozens of elder men from Nawa District's Shorshorak area and the city of Marjeh took part in a historic first official meeting between Afghan people and their governmental leaders near Forward Operating Base Fiddler's Green Jan. 8.

    More than 50 people attended the "shura" and some of the citizens took the opportunity to speak their minds to representatives from Nawa and Marjeh. They explained how some had not had direct interaction with their government in years in Shorshorak and at best, only saw officials campaigning through an area.

    "There was a lot of pent up frustration at this shura because many of them have not seen government representatives in decades in some cases," said Maj. David J. Fennell, civil affairs detachment team leader, 4th Civil Affairs Group. "This is the most productive thing I've seen [in Shorshorak] since I've been here. The government officials had the confidence to come down here, there is security for the people, so they came here. Everything we're doing in this region keeps gaining momentum and continues to speed up. It's going well."

    Marine commanders of Regimental Combat Team 7; 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment; 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment; and 3rd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, joined the meeting to be introduced and to hear some of the concerns of Afghan citizens they protect.

    "In the recent weeks, you've seen hundreds of Marines in this area," said Lt. Col. Cal L. Worth, commanding officer of 1/6, whose battalion will arrive in the Shorshorak area in coming weeks. "I am here to bring a thousand Marines and hundreds of Afghan soldiers here to improve stability in this region. We will form a team for long lasting peace here. I look forward to serving you both here and in Marjeh."

    During the discussions, citizens brought up their key issues, such as security, land rights, building infrastructure and working with Marines and other NATO International Security Assistance Force units. The importance of securing Shorshorak was an issue for both parties due to Taliban influence stemming from Marjeh to their west.

    "I encourage you to do this the right way and support us to rebuild a strong Afghanistan," said Haji Zahir, district governor of Marjeh, who led many of the conversations for the government representatives. "We want to make sure you keep your land. The Marines are here to help us. They are not only bringing safety and security, but they are helping with the roads, hospitals, mosques and schools."

    To showcase some of the achievements after discussions ended, the group walked down the road and symbolically cut ribbons to christen two new bridges spanning waterways and a new water well pump.

    "Here we are standing on this new bridge," said Zahir to the group after cutting the first ribbon. "Afghans built this bridge. It is for us. The Americans will leave here one day and it will be on us to build together for our future here and in Marjeh."

    Each of the construction projects is significant to Shorshorak not only because they were needed and wanted by the people in the area, but the work was done entirely by Afghan contractors, said Fennell.

    "Once the people were able to go see these completed government projects firsthand after the meeting, I think that speaks volumes to the positive impacts of future projects," said Lt. Col. Todd R. Finley, commanding officer of 3/10, whose Marines helped organize the day's events. "It also helps build people's confidence in their government."

    Although some elders who attended said tension still persists between them and their government, they agreed it was a good starting point for their future.

    "There are a lot of good people here who will work with Marines and the government," said one white bearded man from Shorshorak who has seen more than 30 years of conflict amongst his people. "We are happy they are building mosques and schools for our children to be engineers, doctors and teachers. We will try to help the Marines here and in Marjeh in the future."

    Fennell said he and other Marines who attended the shura said they shared hope for more successful cooperation between government leaders and their constituents in this key region of Nawa.

    "I think today there was some venom that needed to be spilled and it will allow future discourse between the two," said Fennell, a 36 year old Denver native. "It was bound to happen, and it's better now than later. This is a huge positive step for us to be ready to move into Marjeh."



    Date Taken: 01.10.2010
    Date Posted: 01.10.2010 04:01
    Story ID: 43616
    Location: NAWA, AF 

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