Monday, October 12, 2009

PRT Nuristan Meet with Nuristan Provincial Council and Community Leaders

By Air Force 2nd Lt. Natassia Cherne
Provincial Reconstruction Team-Nuristan- Public Affairs

FOB KALA GUSH, Afghanistan U.S. Navy CDR. Russell McCormack the Provincial Reconstruction Team Nuristan commander met with six newly elected members of the Provincial Council of Nuristan, and community leaders Oct. 9 to discuss PRT Nuristan’s strategy on security and development for the province.

The six members of the Provincial Council were accompanied by Senator DadMohammed, the Waygul district representative of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, and community leaders from the Wama, Waygul, Parun, Dow Ab, and Nurgarm districts. In total, 17 men came to voice their concerns about recent withdrawals of coalition forces of in Barg-e Matal and Kamdash.

A community member from Wama said, “People are with the government, we don’t want to go back in time.”  A different community member said, “We don’t want to live in the stone age.” These statements show that the people of Nuristan want to work with the government of Afghanistan, it’s security forces, as well as Coalition Forces.

The council members and the community leaders fear that with Coalition Forces pulling out of certain areas and canceling infrastructure projects, the Taliban will get the upper hand. One community leader said that the Taliban use their people’s lack of education, work, and money to recruit Nuristanis to work for them and attack Coalition Forces.

“The meeting was productive because it engaged the new Provincial Council members of Nuristan of the requirements necessary for continual development including demonstrating support of Coalition Forces and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, as well as not tolerating and reporting Anti Afghanistan Forces activity in the area, ” said. McCormack

The bottom line for the Provincial Council members and community leaders is, not only do the people have to ensure security, but they must be willing to help themselves. Nuristan has many problems with their roads being washed out, snowed in and blocked by boulders. To levitate this issue, PRT Nuristan purchased road building equipment to turn over to the Department of Public Works, but there was no representative in the Nurgaram district to take over the equipment.

One of the goals for the Provincial Council members and community leaders to accomplish by the next meeting with McCormack was to find a representative to be responsible for the equipment and name a person PRT engineers can train to work the equipment.

“There is no need to throw seeds on a field full of rocks. It’s their responsibility to clear the field of rocks and ensure it is fertile ground to grow those seeds. The seeds are symbolic of Coalition Forces and American dollars, said McCormack.

Another goal included building a better relationship with the people of Kunar. Nuristan and Kunar have had poor relations in the past, is preventing the people of Nuristan access to the road in the Chapa Dara valley of Kunar.  The road is the only way for Nuristanis to reach the south and it is currently controlled by the Taliban. The objective is to let the past be the past and to create a partnership to regain control of not only the road Chapa Dara valley, but of their country as well.

Nuristan Provence, Afghanistan – U.S. Navy CDR. Russell McCormack, native from Hampstead, New Hampshire, with Provincial Reconstruction Team Nuristan, and Kathryn Hoffman, native from Washington D.C., a Foreign Service Officer, with Department of State, hold a meeting with 17 members of the Provincial Council, Oct. 09. PRT Nuristan, Department of State and the Provincial Council identify issues has been preventing security, governance, and infrastructure in Nuristan. (U.S. Air Force photo / 2nd Lt Natassia Cherne) (RELEASED)

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