The British Commander of Task Force Helmand, Brigadier Doug Chalmers, joined Governor Mangal at his compound in central Lashkar Gah in his final week in post. The pair exchanged gifts before walking into the provincial capital to enjoy lunch in a newly-opened kebab restaurant. Afterwards they visited a local market.
Gulab Mangal has been the Governor of Helmand province since March 2008 and is being replaced as part of a reshuffle of local government ordered by President Hamid Karzai.
Addressing the Brigadier in front of a group of senior provincial representatives, Mr Mangal said:
Allow me to use this opportunity to thank you on behalf of the entire people of Afghanistan, and particularly the people in Helmand, for all the sacrifices you have made to bring change to this province.
And I have to talk about the sacrifices that our own security forces have made. They are the deserved sons of this country and they lost their lives to give us a better life.
We did it together with British, American, Danish and Estonian forces to bring the change and see a green and colourful Helmand.
Brigadier Chalmers responded:
I want to thank you for all you’ve done over the past four years and to mark the engagement the British forces have had with you over that time.
I met you for the first time four years ago down in Garmsir when the fighting was very fierce and I was here in 2009 when the rockets were falling just outside your compound. And so to be invited to come and join you for lunch in a restaurant inside the city of Lashkar Gah marks the change that has happened over those years.
I am really honoured and I am very thankful to be able to go into your city and have lunch today because it marks the change we have seen here in the past four years.
Everywhere I go I see the market towns and cities of Lashkar Gah and Gereshk, and market towns such as Nad ‘Ali which are bustling with trade and protected by Afghan security forces.
Gulab Mangal concluded:
I hope the next chapter will start from here and I look forward to a future when hopefully we won’t be able to hear a single bullet and this will be a peaceful country.