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    Change comes to Khas Uruzgan

    Something remarkable happened in Khas Uruzgan, April 11: Taliban leaders voluntarily laid down their arms and pledged support for the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan during one of the largest shuras ever held in Uruzgan province. The shura was organized by members of the GIRoA, Afghan national security forces and U.S. Special Forces to gauge and to reiterate the importance of area residents' support for the Afghan government.

    The shura's locale, the Matakzai School, was particularly significant because it has long been a hub of insurgent activity: The Taliban has used the site as a rallying point for its fighters and a weapons cache. Not so long ago, senior Taliban leaders would prowl the school's halls weighed down by automatic weapons without fear of coalition forces.

    A season of change, however, has been ushered into the region with the late-January arrival of U.S. Special Forces Operational Detachment-Alpha who implemented a non-kinetic approach to fostering peace and stability in the region.

    This progressive strategy, which was specifically crafted for the area, has facilitated a productive partnership between government and military forces and local tribal leaders.

    Indeed, District Chief Sadar Wali and the Maliks of the Matakzai tribe played host to the shura; the Matakzai is one of the area's most powerful tribes, dominating the eastern portion of Khas Uruzgan.

    "Local elders know we are committed to providing security to the area and supporting their needs and vision for the community," a Special Forces intelligence sergeant said.

    "We want to help bring the district of Khas Uruzgan together, and facilitating shuras with the villagers offers one avenue for accomplishing this goal."

    The mid-April event was particularly significant because the school was finally opened to villagers and full of children, coalition forces were under no threat of attack, and it was widely attended by local villagers.

    Approximately 75 Matakzai men participated in the shura as well as three suspected Taliban supporters, Dr. Zabit Salam, Dr. Hamidullah and Zabit Nafi — each of whom attended willingly and agreed to cease their roles in aiding Taliban efforts.

    A suspected weapons facilitator, Salam previously offered financial support, food and shelter to insurgents while Hamidullah, a medical care provider, has treated wounded insurgents, hidden weapons and provided shelter for insurgents living in and traveling through the area. Nafi was also a supposed weapons facilitator for the insurgency.

    Tribal elders pledged their support for the GIRoA and voiced a desire for peace in the area during the shura, explaining they have grown weary of decades of fighting.

    The leaders vowed to assume responsibility for the 88-square-kilometer area they control and promised to refrain from supporting anti-Afghan forces and to encourage insurgents within their tribe to lay down their arms and join with the GIRoA.

    Those who refuse to comply, the leaders declared, would be banished from the tribe.
    "The Matakzai people have realized the Afghan government and U.S. Special Forces are here to help them achieve their goal of peace," a Special Forces team leader assigned to the region said.

    To see the Matakzai School teeming with children offered another sign of progress: The shura was the first time in three years the Khas Uruzgan children have had the opportunity to attend classes as Taliban leaders issued a standing order several years ago that prohibited school administrators from teaching a non-Taliban approved curriculum.

    Not only did Matakzai children attend classes during the shura, but several also received an English lesson.

    With the school full of villagers and tribal elders present, the threat of violence was low, allowing the combined forces to move freely to and from the school.

    Throughout the past few years, the single road leading to the school has been the sight of countless enemy engagements and improvised explosive devices. The dangers associated with this avenue of approach are compounded by high ground to the north and dense forests to the south.

    At the conclusion of the April 11 shura, however, a new site greeted the region.

    Matakzai Maliks got into their vehicles and led the convoy of ANSF and U.S. Special Forces back to the firebase without incident, offering a promising glimpse of a future in which Khas Uruzgan residents, tribal leaders, and GIRoA personnel can move about their homeland freely, safely and peaceably.



    Date Taken: 04.16.2010
    Date Posted: 04.19.2010 02:32
    Story ID: 48318

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