News: ‘Guardians of Peace’ puts security in the hands of the people
Story by Senior Airman Wesley Farnsworth
PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan - The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, its citizens, and coalition forces are working side-by-side to improve security in Paktya province, as evidenced by the continued success of the Guardians of Peace program.
Launched in October 2010, the program encourages Afghan citizens to call telephone hotlines to anonymously report any insurgent activity they may witness.
One such tip recently resulted in the recovery of a weapons cache of hand grenades, explosives, flares, detonators, grenade fuses and ammunition.
“This program is a lot like the neighborhood watch program in the states, except we are in a war zone,” said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Eric Ozburn, Paktya Provincial Reconstruction Team information operations officer, from Rowland Heights, Calif.
Once a tip has been received, the callers are assigned a confidential case number and asked to call back after their tip has been investigated. Tips are often handled immediately by relaying pertinent information to Afghan National Army and coalition forces in the field.
“Tips that pan out and are useful to Afghan National Security Forces or coalition forces are eligible for a reward,” said Ozburn. “A lot of times these rewards are just a bonus to the people who call in, and not a driving factor.”
According to Ozburn, the majority of calls are from citizens simply tired of seeing bloodshed in their communities. This is one way the average citizen can stand up and negate insurgent tactics that unfortunately kill and maim, he added.
The program is advertised via radio, television, posters, billboards, business cards and by face-to-face contact around the province. Rewards are based on the value of the information and issued when the individual calls back.
“A huge part of my job is just getting awareness of the program to the people,” said Ozburn. “Face-to-face is often the most effective, because I see the immediate acceptance [of the initiative] in their faces. It’s a great feeling.”
Working regularly with coalition forces, the ANSF is more than happy to act upon useful information provided by their fellow citizens.
“Attacks happen and will continue to happen. It does not mean we are not ready to counter attack. We have better equipment and more capacity,” said Brig. Gen. M. Azimi, Afghan Ministry of Defense Spokesperson. “We have lots of professional officers and commanders. We are all ready to repel the attacks of the insurgents and beat them down.”