For several years, insurgents operating in the area threatened and intimidated locals, forcing many to leave their homes and businesses and seek refuge in the protected community provided by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the International Security Assistance Force.
As people deserted Loy Mandeh Kalay, the once bustling bazaar quickly fell into disrepair, putting an end to trade and prosperity.
The site of the bazaar was heavily seeded with countless improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to make sure anyone who tried to come back faced being badly injured or killed.
In May this year, Royal Marines from 42 Commando were among 500 British and Afghan troops who took part in a major operation to liberate the area around Loy Mandeh Kalay in Nad ‘Ali from the insurgents’ grasp.
After several days of fighting, the village was under the control of coalition forces and safe enough to allow the district governor to hold a shura for locals to discuss plans to start restoring the area to its former glory. One of the first things they wanted to see rebuilt was the bazaar, to encourage traders and investment to return.
For the last few months, Royal Marines from 42 Commando have worked with their Afghan and Estonian Army colleagues to help the locals achieve their aim. The site of the bazaar was cleared of all the IEDs during a painstaking clearance operation which was fraught with risk.
Last week, the redevelopment project took a major step forward when a ground-breaking ceremony was held by the Mayor of Nad ‘Ali at the site of the bazaar.
Lieutenant Colonel Ewen Murchison, Commanding Officer of 42 Commando Royal Marines, attended the ground-breaking ceremony and said:
The journey we have taken to reach this moment has been hard-fought, slow and treacherous. The Afghan people are inherently sceptical about promises, having heard so many before. So it is no huge surprise that it has taken several months to convince them that the security here is good enough to allow families to move back and resume their normal life.
We have now reached that stage, and the permanent checkpoint overwatching the bazaar sends a message to both locals and insurgents that the Government of Afghanistan can deliver security to its people and it is the only option for a prosperous and peaceful future in Afghanistan.
During his visit, the Mayor of Nad ‘Ali revealed the positions of twenty new shops that are to be built in the first stage of work to take place. The units will be occupied by the owners of previous shops which had to be abandoned.
These shop owners have now returned to the village and registered their claims to the new shops - showing their determination to rebuild their lives and businesses.