NAD'E ALI, Afghanistan - When the Royal Engineers of the 11th Light Infantry Brigade first arrived in the Nad'e Ali district center, they came to a stagnant area run down from insurgent control. The population was afraid to leave their homes. The bazaar - the center of local economic life - was little more than a ghost town. A local health clinic, built by Americans in the 1950's, was destroyed by an insurgent decree against Western medicinal practices.
Now, the bazaar streets are full of the noises of bargaining shoppers and idling motors. Children shriek on the way to and from school. Not only has the local health clinic been rebuilt, but improved and expanded.
In the wake of Operation Moshtarak, the largest operation since the arrival of coalition forces in Afghanistan, the engineers are redoubling their efforts to bring a functioning public life to the citizens of Nad'e Ali.
The focus of current construction efforts is in the district governor's compound, said Staff Sgt. John Marley, a member of the Nad'e Ali Military Stabilization and Support Team.
"The construction could start under the security and safety this bubble created," said Marley, referring to a set of walls enclosing the compound.
Work on the compound includes 26 offices for departmental ministers and their staff and a shurah hall planned to hold up to 2,000 people. It is scheduled for completion within the next four months.
Outside the compound the effects of International Security Assistance Force-aided reconstruction yield their results, said Marley. New shops opened in the bazaar, and old shops have had concrete roofs attached. They have been regrouped by type in order to maintain public health standards. Also, the mud roads within the bazaar area have been covered in gravel for more consistent accessibility.
A new district mosque is planned for the area as well, and walls have already been built around the site.
The local residents comprise the work force for the area construction projects, said Marley. This encourages the local population to invest their time and effort in the construction and maintenance of their local infrastructure.
Soon, he said, the Afghan government will fund the construction projects within the districts. The engineers will play an intermediary role between the contractors and the local government.
As the current projects make their way toward completion, Marley said he has witnessed first hand an attitude shift on the part of the local population from apprehension to acceptance.
"Slowly, now, we are seeing the construction and all the people that are now employed, the shops are all open again, the health clinic, the children are going to school and getting taught. The local Afghans have welcomed us with open arms now, and they're realizing now this is what all of Afghanistan should be getting and should have had for a long time."