A close partnership between British and Danish International Security Assistance Forces in the Upper Gereshk Valley is delivering stabilisation, reconstruction and development.
ISAF security forces for the Gereshk area are provided by the Danish Battle Group, under the command of Task Force Helmand.
The British provide a Military Stabilisation Support Team â€“ this team supports and coordinates the military effort in helping to deliver reconstruction. They gather information on community needs through local engagement, assess infrastructure and generate development projects and cash-for-work schemes. A team consisting of 12 Danes and six British personnel work in partnership, yielding many benefits for the local Afghan people.
Projects by the MSST include things like funding small bridges and wells in order to make sure that there is clean drinking water for the local population, as well as larger projects including water towers, roads, parks, and refurbishment of schools, health clinics and the local hospital. Effort is also put into fighting unemployment; in Gereshk this has meant hiring men to collect rubbish and clean the watering canals.
The joint teams work closely with the civilian stabilisation advisor from the Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team, which is run from Lashkar Gah and from Forward Operating Base Price.
â€œBuilding bridges and schools is just one part of our mission here,â€ said Lieutenant David Joyce, Officer Commanding of the British MSST. â€œWe have to build the capacity and ability of the local government structures to take the lead and allow us to step away.â€™
â€œWe meet regularly with the municipal mayor to discuss the ongoing construction work within the District Center. He is very keen to progress reconstruction and stabilisation in this area but does not have the technical knowledge to monitor the work effectively,â€ added Lt. Joyce. â€œWe are mentoring him on project management and are trying to show him the benefits that would be had from employing a municipal engineer. Small steps at the moment, but we are seeing definite progress in his ability to manage the construction work in Gereshk â€“ including a number that are totally Afghan-led and have had no input from us.â€
Over the last year, Gereshk has become one of the most stable areas in Helmand and is now considered by many to be the economic centre of the Helmand province. Maj. Johansen describes the bazaar as full of life, the traffic as more and more chaotic, and the construction of compounds as increasing. All are signs of an increased sense of security and optimism in the area.
From August 2008 to February 2009, the Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC) /MSST in the Danish area of responsibility conducted 335 patrols, 100 of which were carried out by British personnel from the MSST. A total of 250 projects were carried out (mostly smaller projects) and 3.7 million Danish Kroner spent or 1.5 million USD on small projects such as wells and small-bridges.