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Village Leaders Hear About Security, Reconstruction Efforts

By Sgt. 1st Class Michael Pintagro, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORWARD OPERATING BASE ASADABAD, Afghanistan, April 28, 2006 – Coalition, Afghan National Army and village leaders discussed regional anti-terror efforts, security and reconstruction at a meeting in eastern Afghanistan's Kunar province recently.

About 50 village elders and townsmen from Ali Abad, Korangal, Arawara Bandeh and Babiel met with Afghan National Army Brig. Gen. Zamari, commander of the 3rd Brigade, 201st ANA Corps; Army Col. John Nicholson, Task Force Spartan commander; Army Lt. Col. Chip Bierman, Task Force Lava commander; and other Coalition leaders as part of Operation Mountain Lion.

Coalition delegates vowed to defeat terrorists operating in the Korangal Valley and support projects designed to improve the quality of life for townspeople during the April 14 meeting.

"This is more than a cordon-and-search or series of tactical missions," Nicholson said. "Mountain Lion is different because it represents a comprehensive, long-term commitment. We're dedicating the forces and funds to change the climate in this region. We don't plan to withdraw after achieving some tactical success. We're staying."

The task force commander described the engagement as one part of a three-pronged effort to defeat terrorists and create a climate favorable to regional prosperity as well as victory in the Afghan front of the war on terrorism.

The first goal is to separate the terrorists from the people, Nicholson said. Then the coalition will work with the Afghan government to convince the people to reject terrorism.

"Finally, we transform the environment by transforming and improving infrastructure," he added.

Improvements will be made through road construction, irrigation, medical and educational projects.

Bierman linked the success of the coalition anti-terror efforts to the reconstruction projects and regional prosperity.

"You've seen the reconstruction projects, the hospitals, schools and wells built" elsewhere in eastern Afghanistan, Bierman said at the meeting. "If we can defeat the enemy, we'll have the opportunity to do things like that in the Korangal."

A question-and-answer forum followed introductory remarks by the allied leaders.

Several elders praised coalition and Afghan government reconstruction programs. Town spokesmen voiced contempt for foreign insurgents, expressing at the same time concerns for the safety of their families and neighbors.

"These foreign fighters are not only your enemies, they're all our enemies," said a chief leader in the town of Ali Abad. "Our goal is also to have security in the village."

Insurgents frequently threaten villagers, saying their children will be killed if support of the coalition and Afghan government continues, he said, noting the recent deaths of 11 villagers at the hands of terrorists.

Zamari asked village elders to continue assisting the Afghan government and Coalition by denying the terrorists sanctuary and reporting information about their whereabouts and activities.

"The enemy is like a fish," Zamari said. "A fish can live only where there's water. If there's no water, the enemy will die."

(Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Pintagro is assigned to Task Force Spartan Public Affairs.)

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