In the space of less than three months, soldiers from 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment and their Afghan National Army (ANA) counterparts have transformed Chah-e Mirza from an insurgent safe haven, where intimidation and oppression reigned, into a peaceful but bustling settlement.
With insurgent activity in the area crushed, normality is returning for the 2,000-strong community in the Nad ‘Ali district, which mainly consists of landowners, shopkeepers and farmers from the Kakar and Baloch tribes.
Now the troops are helping local people put the icing on the cake with a public display, not only of national pride, but of defiance against the insurgent elements.
It follows other major indicators of progress, including a doubling in size of the local market and the installation of ten solar lights around the bazaar and mosque, which have improved the feeling of security in the area and enabled trading to go on for longer, increasing prosperity for all.
In addition, an Afghan Government-funded mechanics’ training centre is also now up and running.
The flag scheme has been led by Royal Irish soldiers Corporal Richie Burwell and Ranger Mark Croft, aided by other British and Afghan soldiers based at nearby Check Point Kamyab, as well as enthusiastic villagers.
Corporal Burwell explained:
We’ve really decorated the village in style and, not surprisingly, the Afghans love it. The Afghan people are from a proud culture and are really excited about what, to them, is a novel and new way to show pride in their nation and respect for their elected government, as well as defiance and hatred of the Taliban.
Ranger Croft added:
Not only does this make them even more proud of their nation, it makes them feel confident that the door has been closed on the insurgents in Nad ‘Ali.
The flags are an affront to the insurgents because they demonstrate to everyone their inability to influence what goes on in Chah-e Mirza.
Second Lieutenant Nathan Reid, who has overseen much of the work in Chah-e Mirza, said:
Putting bunting of the Afghan national flag above the bazaar, in collaboration with the ANA and locals, demonstrates a noble partnership between us all, while also giving everyone a bazaar they can be proud of.
Lieutenant Attiqullah, the local ANA tolay (company) commander, said:
We appreciate the British soldiers and all of ISAF for their work in our country. Together our aim of bringing peace and freedom and maintaining security is welcomed by the locals. This is proudly represented by the flying of our flag.