Children in the village of Howz-E-Madad watch the Afghan Liberation Day parade pass through the local bazaar Feb. 15.

KANDAHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- Afghan Liberation Day, established by the Afghan government in 2005, celebrates the last Soviet Union soldiers being pushed from the country by Mujahedeen fighters.

This year, residents celebrated Afghan Liberation Day on Feb. 15 with parades through the streets of three of the most volatile areas in Kandahar Province -- the villages of Howz-e-Madad, Senjeray and Nalgham.

Former Mujahedeen fighters of Kandahar Province, some of whom are now government officials in the area, along with Afghan National Police and Afghan Local Police officers marched through the streets of the village bazaars with the country's national anthem playing, followed by military vehicles flying the Afghan flag. Villagers lined the roads, waving and saluting the Afghan National Security Forces.

"The old, admired Mujahedeen fighters of the past were able to see, meet, engage, interact with their equivalent of today -- the guys who are truly fighting for their country in modern times," said Maj. Brian Ducote, 3rd Brigade Combat Team operations officer. "They know they are doing the right thing; they know they are being brave courageous citizens, patriots of their country."

The day's events began with a ceremony held by the former Mujahedeen fighters of Kandahar, along with Spartan Soldiers at the Nalgham community center. Col. Patrick D. Frank, Task Force Spartan commander, addressed local and national police officers, encouraging them to continue fighting against the Taliban.

"We just drove from (Forward Operating Base) Pasab, all the way through the district to Nalgham, the place of the most intense fighting in the last year," said Frank to the Afghan security forces at Nalgham. "All the Afghan people we passed along the way were very proud of their security forces, but the proudest of all the Afghans are the Mujahedeen, the heroes of the nation."

From Nalgham, the group moved to the Howz-e-Madad bazaar, forming a commemorative parade, and marched down the road, demonstrating the significance of the holiday and parallels between the expulsion of the Soviets in the past to the defeat of the Taliban today.

"Today we remember the great victories of the Mujahedeen," Frank said. "You and the ALP and the ANP and the Afghan Army are the modern-day Mujahedeen for your nation. You are now defeating the Taliban. We celebrate your victories."

Less than a year ago, a parade through the streets in celebration of a national holiday could not take place without Taliban retaliation. This year, villagers and Afghan security forces were met with no resistance. Children could be seen running through the streets to meet the parade with smiles, shouts and waves.

"Part of (defeating) the Taliban is showing the people that they have protectors. The people could physically see their sons, their cousins, their nephews, their fathers in some cases, take an active role to protect their society, to protect their way of life," Ducote said.

After marching through Howz-e-Madad, the group moved to FOB Howz-E-Madad for a quick pep talk with Afghan soldiers. By the time the procession reached the FOB, the number of Afghan security forces participants had doubled. While driving down the road, playing the Afghan National Anthem, police vehicles joined the convoy. Immediately after lunch, the procession continued through the bazaar in Senjeray.

The tour ended at Pir Mohammed in eastern Zharay District, with another round of speeches from Frank and the local Mujahedeen.

"It is our honor as American Soldiers to serve alongside you in defeating the Taliban and returning the independence to the nation of Afghanistan," Frank said.

Page last updated Wed February 22nd, 2012 at 15:26