JALALABAD, Afghanistan (June 2, 2009) – For the third time in a year, an air assault mission in the Laghman province of northeastern Afghanistan provided humanitarian aid and coordinated information-exchange efforts between locals and ISAF leaders concerning ongoing counterinsurgency operations in the area.
On May 24, members of the 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment of the Illinois National Guard, Provincial Reconstruction team, Kansas Agriculture Development Team, Marine Embedded Training Team and the Afghan National Army conducted Operation Longbow III, which was a Key Leader Engagement to provide humanitarian assistance in the province.
“The mission was important to the area because it is our fourth major effort to link the people of this remote region with [Afghan government] officials in Laghman province,“ said Army, Maj. Jack Erwin, a Civil Military Operations officer from St. Charles , Ill.
Through fields of wheat, Soldiers were greeted by locals who led them to the village elders, where the KLE was held with local government officials, to include Murtaza Hedayt Qalandarzai, Deputy Governor of Laghman province, and Col. Mohammed Jan, 201st Afghan National Army Recon 4/2/201st Kandak commander.
During the meeting, village elders expressed the hardships they endure on a daily basis because of the lack of such essentials as clean water and electricity.
“Agricultural issues are the main concern for the people of Garmunay Village, with water and good fertilizer being very scarce items,” Col. Eric C. Peck, 1-6 Kansas Agriculture Development Team commander, said.
After listening to the issues from the village elders, the military leaders reassured them of their cooperation and intent for provincial reconstruction efforts in the area. In return the locals will report insurgent activity to ISAF Forces and will not assist in Anti-Afghan activities.
“In coordination with [Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan], PRT Laghman is planning a road project that runs along the old spice route which will connect the people of the Galuch with the rest of Laghman province,” Erwin said. “That road will eventually bring more projects, development and governance in the long run. The mission will help decrease the influence of [militants] in the area and will help build the relationship with GIROA, the PRT and also the new Agricultural Development Team who can assist farmers throughout the province.”
A general description of why U.S. Forces are in Afghanistan was also a burning question for some of the local nationals attending the meeting.
Each commander explained to the people how his unit works and how they were there to work in close coordination with Afghan Forces to assist the Afghan government to be successful until their assistance is no longer needed and ISAF forces can go home.
At the end of the meeting the TF Bayonet commander announced to the crowd that they brought humanitarian aid products for the village as a show of concern and support from the Afghan Government.
“The people of the area need [humanitarian assistance] because they are poor and live in a very remote area in western Mehtar Lam province,” Erwin said. “They primarily survive through subsistence agriculture, growing wheat in the area. There is little commerce because of the remoteness.”
Soon thereafter, a large crowd of Afghans surrounded the white kicker boxes full of HA products. The village elders took charge of the excited crowd and began establishing order by forming lines, and distributed different items from the boxes. The ANA along with village elders handed out flour, sugar, beans, rice, and radios to the locals.
“The local elders and villagers reacted positively to the HA, smiling and thanking the ANA, deputy governor and ISAF leaders,” Erwin said.
Overall, the mission was a success, offering a chance for the Laghman residents, ANA and ISAF leadership to meet and discuss development in the area and build relationships.
“Longbow III was a success because it was free of enemy interaction,” said Lt. Col. Daniel J. Fuhr, TF Bayonet commander, “and more importantly it extended the opportunity for the deputy governor of Laghman province to meet with its constituencies in such a remote location.”