BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — The 1st Company, 1st Kandak, 203rd Corps of the Afghanistan national army, along with paratroopers from 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division conducted two local Shuras in the Zormat District of the Paktya province in eastern Afghanistan on April 13th and 15th to discuss the recent establishment of Combat Outpost Kalagu, and to address concerns of the village elders.
Shuras, which are a gathering of local elders and villagers, hosted the commanders of both the ANA and International Security Assistance Forces in the area, in which all of the leaders communicate plans and procedures to the populace, and conduct an assessment of the opinions of the locals.
"What we are trying to do is to get to the villages and population centers immediately surrounding this COP to let them know what we are doing here, let them know that security is coming, find out what their issues are and listen to what they've got to say," said the 1-40th commander, Lt. Col. Robert Campbell.
The COP was established effectively by the 1/1 Kandak and 1-40th Cavalry, bringing a surge of force assets to the area, which carried the potential to alarm the locals.
"We came in with an air assault asset, helicopters, and trucks and we want to get to the population quickly, so we can connect with the people right away," said Campbell.
A positive and developing relationship with the elders in the area is essential to the success of the ANA in the area, and despite some original hesitation, the commanders feel that their efforts will assist in bringing peace.
"At first, I think they were a little nervous, and a little frightened, because I know that the enemy has been in and out of the area, and any time they talk with coalition forces or Afghanistan national security forces, there is always a threat that they are going to get 'caught' doing so, and the Taliban will show up later and do bad things to them," said Campbell.
Several elders at the Shuras expressed concern regarding this issue, among others, and spent several hours raising those concerns to the commanders, who listened carefully and offered remedies for each issue.
"I think we gained their trust very quickly and I give that credit to the 1/1 Kandak commander, because he knows how to connect with the people. They realized that we weren't there to hurt them or search them, we were there just to communicate with them and show them that we care, and we want to make a better life for them," said Campbell.
Lt. Col. Attauallah, the commander of the 1/1 Kandak, assured the elders that he would maintain an open line of communication with them, and respect their culture, traditions, and desires for their community. He promised not only an unending fight to maintain security, but a determination to build up Kalagu through various projects.
"We are working with the coalition forces to start projects of schools, clinics, paving roads, and wells," he said to the elders. "We are here to bring peace and stability, to drive out the enemy, and are thinking of good projects and a peaceful area of Afghanistan."