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More than 300 people from the local area attended the party, which was organised entirely by the Afghan Uniform Police (AUP), who also provided the security for the event - the largest gathering of its kind in the Babaji area of Lashkar Gah district for over a decade.
Entertainment was in the form of a band and traditional Afghan food was provided and served to the guests by the AUP. The band had travelled from Lashkar Gah and many of the police present had also come from areas outside the Babaji precinct.
This ‘community concert’ marks a milestone in the continued success of the police to provide security and influence in the area. Within the last few months several ISAF checkpoints have been closed or handed over to the Afghan police and the final transition of Babaji to Afghan control is due to take place later this month.
The Babaji bazaar, which has been closed for the last two years due to security concerns, has recently reopened - a sign that the local population now feel secure enough to return to a state of normality that has not existed in the region for many years.
The money for the event was provided by the Operations Coordination Cell (OCC), run by the Police Monitoring and Advisory Group, which is led by 1st Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (1 PWRR).
Captain Paddy Munns, from 1 PWRR, is the Officer Commanding of OCC Babaji, and in the run up to the event he assisted the AUP precinct commander with planning the concert and the necessary security measures.
On the day, soldiers from Support Company, 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment (1 YORKS), provided overwatch, but security at the event was provided solely by the Babaji AUP and the day went without incident.
Captain Munns said:
This was a hugely successful occasion and provided a fantastic opportunity for the police to socialise with the local population and continue to build on the developing relationship between them.
A gathering of this size hasn’t happened in Babaji for over 10 years, so that is some measure of the success of the event.
The community concert was an excellent opportunity for the AUP, and they did themselves proud by organising the event. The AUP mixed in with the locals - dancing, socialising and serving them lunch. It allowed the AUP to show the people of Babaji that they are professional, competent and are here to serve the population.
The band was hired from Lashkar Gah by the AUP and given a police escort to the venue.
Mangal, the band’s frontman, said:
I usually play at weddings and have never performed at a police-organised party. This is the first time I have seen such an event in Babaji. This would not have been possible during the last 10 years.
Among those present were the Afghan Government’s interim municipal councillor Haji Abdul Gaffoor and Lieutenant Esmeri, the commander of the Babaji police precinct. Many of the local elders were also present, highlighting the influence of the event.
Those members of ISAF present at the concert entered into the spirit of the day with Major Craig Powers, Officer Commanding Support Company, 1 YORKS, encouraging Lieutenant Esmeri to join him and others dancing in front of the crowd.
Babaji is part of the Lashkar Gah district, the security for which is the responsibility of the Queen’s Royal Hussars Battle Group aided by Support Company from 1 YORKS.