PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan– Soldiers with the Afghan National Army, partnered with Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, and Soldiers with the Paktika Provincial Reconstruction Team, conducted Operation Leader Zalzalah II March 23-28.
The ANA and PRT went through the Paktika province village’s of Pirkoti and Bibycott, conducting an area reconnaissance, presence patrols, key leader engagements and gathering intelligence from the locals while the 1-187th INF Soldiers provided security.
“While we were there the people told us what they feel their needs are,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Arin Wilson, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-187 INF. Wilson leads the unit's information gathering efforts.
While at first stand-offish with the Soldiers, the people in Pirkoti eventually warmed up and told the PRT about their needs for a bigger medical clinic, paved roads and a bigger school.
“The area hasn’t had a big American presence,” said Spc. Brabham Garrick, 1st Battalion, 178th Field Artillery Regiment, PRT security. “The kids were both scared and interested at the same time, while I feel the adults were happy to see us for the most part.”
This is the first assessment of Pirkoti and Wilson said the PRT gained a lot of information gained to help determine where the priorities for development.
ANA Capt. Momand Ashaqullah, commander of 3rd Battalion, 2nd Kandak, 203rd Corps, said one of the most important strides toward progress would be to provide the people of Pirkoti with both jobs and projects.
“Two and three years ago these people weren’t interested in anything; now they are asking for things,” Ashaqullah said. “They understand that the coalition has done a lot of projects through Orgun, and they would like to get projects for themselves.”
It was an important point for the ANA not to make any promises that can’t be guaranteed as to the people of Afghanistan, “a word is a man’s bond.”
Ashaqullah said it is extremely important in circumstances such as in Pirkoti to be close to the people.
“If you are close with them, then you can understand what they truly want. And they can understand what can actually be provided for them,” Ashaqullah said.
The last time the ANA were in the Pirkoti area was roughly eight months ago, and the changes between now and then are drastic said Ashaqualla.
“Before when we came the people were completely stand-offish with us,” Ashaqullah said. “Over the past day’s we have been here, they have warmed up and begun to accept us.”
Ashaqullah said that the more the people see a military presence, the more they will trust the military.
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