LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army Capt. Jason Merchant, the company commander of Company A, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, Task Force Ironman from Dysart, Iowa, hands out cards Dec. (click for more)
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Spc. Lauren Hyman of Texarkana, Texas, armored vehicle driver for the 64th Military Police Company based at Combat Oupost Fortress, says hello to an (click for more)
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Taylor Gingrich, an infantry officer from Cedar Falls, Iowa, with Task Force Ironman, draws a smile from an Afghan boy as Gingrich (click for more)
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Spc. Brian Stowe, a human resources specialist from Elkmont, Ala., with Task Force Knighthawk, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, sings a ballad he wrote and (click for more)
PAKTYA, Afghanistan – Servicemembers defend the wall after an improvised explosive device detonates on Forward Operating Base Lightning Dec. 5. (click for more)
KAPISA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan and French military chiefs conduct a briefing before deployment during a security operation. Afghan National Security Forces and French Task Force Richelieu conducted Operation Montevideo (click for more)
PANJSHIR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Phil Compton, Doty, Wash., Panjshir PRT engineer, and PRT local Afghan engineer Abid Wardak check the structural integrity of the retaining (click for more)
GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan – An Afghan family looks at their new family member after she was delivered by the Polish Army medical team at Forward Operating Base Warrior Jan. 3. (click for more)
KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- Soldiers from 2nd Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, maneuver through Sabari District during patrols to disrupt insurgent activity in the (click for more)
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Sgt. Shawn Fouste, Decatur, Ill., noncommissioned officer in charge of the Freedom Restoration Center with the 455th Expeditionary Wing, Task Force Med, plays with (click for more)
GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Several projects in the mountainous Hazaran, Jaghori District, were revisited by the Ghazni Provincial Reconstruction Team Oct. 13.
During their second day on the ground, the Ghazni PRT checked on the Polish-funded cobblestone road in Sanga Masha Village near the district center and the U.S.-funded public restrooms in the village’s bazaar, while also discussing insurgent activities and ethnic tensions with local leaders.
The cobblestone road extended through the main street of the bazaar to the district center where district officials conduct business in Jaghori. The road kept the dust in the air to a minimum as cars and motorcycles sped through the bazaar.
At the Sanga Masha bazaar, PRT members walked freely through the streets without their body armor or large armored vehicles, a feat not possible in districts where insurgent activity is still high.
“Even if you walk 15 days around Jaghori, you won’t hear a single gunshot,” said Abdur Rahim, a cloth shopkeeper in Sanga Masha Village. Rahim invited the PRT members into his small shop and served chai tea to the servicemembers.
Rahim was happy with the PRT’s two public restrooms and newly finished cobblestone road in his village.
“I could talk to you all day, and thank you for the money used to build these projects for us,” he said.
Rahim asked for more restrooms and showed the PRT a site nearby where people were still dumping their trash and using the restroom outside, despite the two new restrooms. The trash and smell alone proved that not all people were utilizing the new Turkish-style toilets.
“The restrooms are too far apart, and people won’t walk that far,” Rahim told the PRT through an interpreter.
The PRT took the time to check on the location of the new restroom, and they learned they were in working order. The case of them being about 200 meters from the market was for sanitary reasons. In the past, the PRT has seen wells polluted by wastewater, and locating restrooms too close to human traffic increases the chances of spreading disease.
While Jaghori District’s permissive environment makes it an easier place to start and finish projects, the road to Jaghori is laden with improvised explosive devices and enemy ambushes, preventing the PRT from safely travelling there by ground convoy. Therefore, the team relies on helicopters to reach the district.
“We like the people in Jaghori,” said U.S. Army Maj. Jonathan Price, the Ghazni PRT civil affairs team leader from East Windsor, N.J. “Everyone I bring here is very impressed with the people. So, we push to get projects accomplished here.”
Rahim wanted the PRT to extend the cobblestone road, and the team let him know plans were in place to start that project. Price let Rahim know projects like that would take time since there are 18 districts in Ghazni.
“The process now is that we have to work with the Afghan government because we will not always be here. We want the people to learn how to ask the government to accomplish projects out here,” Price told Rahim.
A dozen Afghans gathered around the PRT members sitting cross-legged on the floor of Rahim’s shop, and one of them from the crowd interrupted the conversation.
“Are you trying to fight the Taliban, or are they too strong for you?” one young man asked.
U.S. Army Lt. Col. William Gormley, the Ghazni human terrain team leader from Boston, answered the young man.
“We are doing a lot of things against the Taliban, but the problem is they are hard to find since they hide in the local population, and we don’t want to kill innocent people,” Gormley said.
Another topic that surfaced during the impromptu meeting was the general sentiment of prejudice against the Shiite Muslim Hazarans, one of the ethnic populations in Ghazni. The other large ethnic populations in Ghazni are the Sunni Muslim Tajiks and Pashtuns.
“Because we are Turkish and Mongols, we are targeted,” Rahim said. “But we have been here 5,000 years. The Taliban destroyed the Buddhist statues to erase our history and proof of Hazaran existence in Afghanistan. They want to push the Mongol out of Afghanistan.”
The Buddhist statues Rahim referred to were the Buddhas of Bamiyan destroyed by the Taliban in March 2001 when they were declared to be idols, which was forbidden under Sharia law.
“Those statues were 2,000 years old and had Hazaran features like a small nose and small eyes,” Rahim said, pointing to his own face.
The PRT, aware of the underlying problems between the ethnic groups, explained they worked for the whole province and still had to help every district, despite ethnic tensions.
“We enjoy working in Jaghori because of the permissive environment, but we can’t spend all of our resources here. We also have to work in the dangerous districts,” Price said. “In the end, there must be an Afghan solution; we have to work with the government."
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