The Helmand River is the one major source of water in this desert region, and when a portion of that supply is diverted, it causes problems for entire communities.
This scenario is exactly what transpired as the high water levels of last winter changed the course of the river at crucial points, capturing the attention of the Afghan government leadership in the area and that of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.
The Garmsir District governor, Haji Abdullah Jan, called a shura, July 6, with about 50 village elders to discuss the matter and come up with a common solution. U.S. Marines with Regimental Combat Team 3 and the ISAF stability advisor for Garmsir were in attendance at the meeting and coordinated with the officials to help in the best way possible.
“It is very important for everyone to pitch in and help because the people down river are having problems,” Jan said as he addressed the group of influential leaders.
As an agricultural district surrounded by a desert with temperatures reaching into the 120s during the summer months, water is crucial to the survival of the population and their livelihood in Garmsir.
“Aside from security, water is the number one concern in the region,” said Lt. Col. Leonard DeFrancisci, 4th Civil Affairs Group detachment commander with RCT-3.
Various solutions were discussed at the shura, but the Marines were strictly present at the meeting as observers, according to the CAG commander.
In a side conversation with the district governor, ISAF offered to pay for the renting of the equipment required, but the Afghan locals were committed to the physical construction of the project.
“The civil affairs Marines did just enough to get the project going, and the Afghans here took advantage,” DeFrancisci continued.
At the shura, a work plan was identified and the elders pitched in with village labor â€“ about 100 locals joined the workforce. A local contractor who rents machinery was approached by the district governor, and he agreed to lease his equipment at basic rates, according to the Peter Chilvers, an ISAF stability advisor who works in conjunction with the British-lead Provincial Reconstruction Team in ‘s capital.
The PRT takes the lead on issues relating to governance and infrastructure development in Helmand province. It encompasses military and civilian advisors and experts in a variety of specialized fields who work closely with the provincial government to coordinate efforts with ISAF.
“Afghan leaders recognize that ISAF cannot fix all of their problems, and they are best suited to fix their own issues,” said Capt. Micajah Caskey, 2/8′s civil affairs team leader.
Construction for the project in Garmsir started July 8 with the work of numerous local Afghans and Governor Jan himself joining in the effort.
“The district governor played a very active role in helping the people â€“ very visible in the community,” said DeFrancisci.
The work on the project is going well, according to Chilvers, and the district governor has been providing regular updates on the status of the project via Radio Garmsir.
“It all happened pretty quickly, and it is a great example of a joint community lead project being delivered by the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,” the stability advisor said.
“The process of Afghans working with Afghans to solve problems will have positive and far-reaching effects on the peoples’ confidence in the legitimate government,” said Lt. Col. Christian Cabaniss, battalion commander of 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. “I’m just glad we were able to support the local government in effectively and immediately addressing a pressing issue that affects the entire community.”
The project should be completed before the end of July, according to Caskey. Equally as important as the project itself is the display of the local government’s ability to bring together numerous community leaders for the benefit of the Afghan people.
2/8 entered Garmsir District when it turned over battle space with British forces last June. It expanded further into the district during Operation Khanjar, July 2, when nearly 4,000 U.S. Marines and more than 600 Afghan soldiers entered areas of southern Helmand Province previously under the influence of the Taliban in an effort to provide security for the Afghan people.
The U.S. Marines and Helmand-based PRT are part of the larger international force in Afghanistan, ISAF, which is committed to the security, reconstruction and extension of governance in Afghanistan.