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PANJSHIR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team and Panjshir Province Gov. Keramuddin Keram hosted several U.S. military visitors July 6 as part of a pre-deployment site survey.
U.S. Army Col. Ben Corell, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division commander, who replaces U.S. Army Col. Will Roy, Task Force Wolverine commander, in December, and Command Sgt. Maj. Joel Arnold, 2 BCT, 34 ID, were among the guests who spent the day receiving briefings at Forward Operating Base Lion followed by lunch at the provincial governor’s compound.
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Curtis Velasquez, Panjshir PRT commander, and Ethan Glick, acting Panjshir PRT director, gave the visitors a detailed briefing about the PRT and the history of the province. Velasquez talked about several of the PRT’s current 33 construction projects, which include schools, roads and clinics.
The commander and director also discussed the things that make Panjshir different from other provinces in Afghanistan.
“There’s a special bond here because the Taliban view the Panjshiris the same as any coalition force member,” said Velasquez. “Our vision is to have Panjshir continue to be the model province to which all other provinces are compared.
“We are able to conduct our projects with a plan in coordination with the provincial government,” Velasquez continued. “A lot of times that only involves mentoring. Many times, we don’t even have to mentor.”
The U.S. Agency for International Development was represented at the meeting also. Curtis Rose, USAID field officer with Panjshir PRT, talked to the incoming commander about the National Solidarity Program and its success story in Panjshir.
“NSP is our claim to fame,” said Rose. “As far as we know, this is the only province where NSP works with the military. The reason it’s so successful is because NSP shows ownership in projects. We started very small, and now our relationship is growing.”
Rose said NSP has created a local government structure at the village level. The program is supposed to develop a system in which villagers know how to identify, plan and manage needed projects at the local level.
NSP has been able to obtain village “buy in” on projects, he said. The relationship with the PRT is extremely useful in many situations. For example, if a village is simply a few bags of cement short of completing a project, the PRT can help.
Following the last briefing, the group headed to the governor’s compound for a meeting and lunch. Roy thanked Keram for hosting the group and told him it was important for the new leaders to see their areas of responsibility so they can prepare appropriate training for the upcoming mission.
“I’m very glad the commander (Velasquez), director (Glick) and Khalid (Siddiqi, Panjshir PRT political assistant) are here, and they created a smooth process and paved the way for you,” said Keram. “We are hoping to continue good governance. I hope the new guys have good planning, and I know they will have the support of the Panjshir government.”
Velasquez told Keram that just because their replacements were there for a tour didn’t mean the current PRT was done working.
“This doesn’t mean we’re going to relax,” said Velasquez. “We still have a lot to do, and the Panjshiris can count on us to continue our partnership.”
Keram again thanked the current PRT and laughed when he told them that they did such a good job they would all get a big promotion at home when their tours end.
Following a traditional Afghan lunch hosted by the governor, the group returned to FOB Lion.
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