Cooperation: One village at a time
September 19, 2013
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KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- U.S. Army Soldiers from Whiskey Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, and leaders from 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, met with their Afghan National Security Force counterparts and village elders of Kunday village to discussion historical security concerns, Sep. 9.
"The purpose of the meeting was to bring together Afghan Uniformed Police, Coalition Force leadership, and the Kunday elders to gain a better understanding of each other and to encourage cooperation between our three entities," said Capt. Benjamin R. Flores, commander of Whiskey Co., 2nd Bn., 506th Inf. Regt., 4th Brigade Combat Team "Currahee", 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
This particular meeting was significant in many ways according to company and battalion leaders.
"It was the first meeting where we were all able to meet face to face and share our concerns," said Flores. "The fact that 12 elders were willing to come forward and to have discussions with AUP and Coalition Force commanders was a great breakthrough to strengthening our relationships and understanding of each other."
The shura offered the opportunity for discussion on a wide variety of topics between the attendees.
"A variety of topics were discussed such as the current security in the village, the future cooperation of the ANSF and villagers, the state of the schools in the area, sharing of intelligence on enemies of Afghanistan activity and people of interest living in Kunday, and how the AUP expect the elders to take the lead to ensure that the enemies of Afghanistan do not take a foothold in the village," said 1st Lt. Andrews S. Kearns, a platoon leader with Whiskey Co., 2nd Bn., 506th Inf. Regt.
The meeting was also an opportunity for Currahee leaders to observe and take note of the level of civilian and military integration between village elders and the ANSF.
"There were many sidebar conversations between AUP commanders and elders which showed me that they are willing to work together to solve their common problems," said Capt. Flores. "At the end of the day, this shura was a step in the right direction to ensuring mutual support for the overall security of the people of Kunday."
Towards the end of the meeting, an unexpected surprise was awaiting the village elders.
The headmaster of Kunday High School and the 12 elders were presented with building material that they will be able to utilize in the courtyard of the school where currently more than 700 children are educated daily under the intense Afghan sun without shade or in the case of rain, classes are cancelled outright.
"It was such a great idea to help the children. This means that the villagers will be very happy with us and nothing bad will happen anymore when we go into the village," said Sgt. Maqoobullah Kahn, Afghan Uniformed Police officer.
This renewed level of cooperation between the villagers of Kunday and their local ANSF had an immediate effect on the participants.
"This was a great thing we did today. The elders will go back and tell the entire village the good things we are doing for them and to expect great cooperation from the village in the future and a much safer operating environment when we next enter the village," said 1st Sgt. Kamal, a Salerno Afghan Uniformed Police officer.
For the Currahee Soldiers, the time and energy put into the meeting was made noticeable upon the conclusion.
"The highlight of the shura for me was seeing the local AUP commanders and elders dominate the conversation about local security as Currahee leaders just sat back and listened," said Flores. "Afghans sitting down with Afghans and discussing how they can work together to benefit the local community without CF support is what winning looks like."