A year ago, checkpoints in Nad ‘Ali were routinely under insurgent attack. However, six months later, rifles and bullets have been replaced with bin-liners and spades in a string of Community Pride days.
The villages of Baluchan and Shin Kalay used to be insurgent strongholds where the local people were unable to lead normal lives for fear of insurgent reprisals. Now the people are gaining confidence as a result of the improved security. Small shops are opening up and the roads are busy with passing trade.
This week a patrol of Gurkhas and Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP) armed with bin-liners and spades stepped out of Checkpoint Tandar to join the locals from the area in cleaning up the streams and alleyways of discarded rubbish.
A few days later Gurkhas from Checkpoint Kamyab joined Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers to run the same initiative in the Kakaran Bazaar in Baluchan.
Lieutenant Mohammad Khalid, an Afghan National Army Commander, said:
Twenty Afghan National Army soldiers took part in the initiative and around one hundred children and 25 local people turned up at Kakaran Bazaar. We offered a kite as the top prize to the child who filled their bag with rubbish first. To say thank you to the remainder we handed out radios and notebooks. It was a really successful day.
This is the product of a number of shuras (meetings) between local elders and members of the ANA and ANCOP to talk about ways to improve community relations and occupy the children during the summer holidays.
Captain Ramkumar Rai, from B Company, 2 RGR, is the Commander of Checkpoint Tandar. He said:
My platoon, along with the ANCOP, patrol in and around Shin Kalay on a daily basis. Having been here for three months we have made many friends and know the majority of people. The key leaders of the village are very important, and this initiative was welcomed by them as a great way to bring the community and young people together.
Once the initiative started, more and more shopkeepers and children joined in the task armed with spades and brushes. Even some passers-by stopped to take part. Bin-liners were quickly filled with wrappers and empty water bottles which were then taken away for disposal by the ANCOP and ANA.
For their efforts, the children involved received radios and notebooks from the ANCOP and ANP personnel.
Captain Gagendra Dewan, Second-in-Command, B Company, 2 RGR, said:
The event was a huge success. The people who live around the bazaar area of Baluchan seemed genuinely pleased that the area looked so clean. ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces], with little ISAF involvement, led the event and certainly established a sense of community pride that their bazaar was the cleanest in the district.
It is hoped that this type of initiative will spread to other localities during Ramadan. The aim of Community Pride days is to continue building relationships between the ANSF and the communities in which they serve in order to maintain the peace and prosperity being enjoyed after so many years of conflict.