Thursday, January 13, 2005

fwd: The war for Afghans' hearts: After years of hostility toward foreign troops, the

As indicated in an earlier note, it is always hard to tell how strong one or
another so-called public sentiment is among a group of people, so this is to be
read with some reserve, but it is promising news in so far as it is true. RLC

Please see my "concerns" page:
My blog:

Forwarded Message:
From: Rasul Mobin
Subject: The war for Afghans' hearts: After years of hostility toward foreign
troops, the
Date: Jan 9, 2005

> Ottawa Citizen
> January 9, 2005
> The war for Afghans' hearts: After years of hostility toward foreign
> troops, the people of Kandahar have finally warmed up and are helping
> the soldiers
> by Jim Farrell, The Edmonton Journal
> If Canadian troops move from Kabul back to Kandahar next year -- and
> it appears likely they will -- the Canadians will find a changed city
> and an American-run base that is almost unrecognizable.
> When Canadian troops served alongside Americans from January to
> August of 2002, occasional firefights erupted around the perimeter of
> the airport where they were stationed. In the city and surrounding
> villages, locals tended to be standoffish. Every soldier was aware
> that Kandahar was the birthplace of the Taliban.
> The Kandahar base now features wooden huts where row upon row of four-
> person tents once stood. Cyclone fencing topped with razor wire,
> rather than soldiers dug into trenches, provides security. The
> southeast corner of the camp, once featureless desert, is a vast
> storage area of steel cargo containers. Where soldiers once carted
> away steel drums of human waste from improvised outhouses, civilian
> workers scrub down full-service bathrooms.
> But the most significant change is found in the city of Kandahar and
> the surrounding countryside, where most children now wave or give
> thumbs-up to patrolling American troops. Their fathers often smile as
> armoured Humvees flying the Stars and Stripes motor by.
> "Down here in Kandahar the sharp end has been somewhat blunted," Maj.
> David Flynn of the U.S. Army's 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery
> said.
> There are still incidents of roadside booby-trap bombs and rockets
> lobbed toward the city, but these incidents are more common in Kabul,
> the capital city 500 kilometres to the northeast.
> "We have been successful in interdicting improvised explosive devices
> (booby traps) thanks largely to locals tipping us off about people
> out to cause trouble," says Maj. Flynn. "Our message is getting out
> and people are assisting the command."
> That matters to Canadians because Afghanistan's defence minister has
> proposed that Canadian troops move from Kabul to Kandahar in February
> 2006 to provide security for Provincial Reconstruction Teams,
> civilian/military groups that will stabilize the area and aid
> reconstruction.
> If Canadians return to Kandahar, they will receive a warm welcome
> from the local populace, Maj. Flynn says.
> "Generally we have exceeded my expectations," he says. "People are
> happy to be able to go back to their homes. They are happy their
> children are going back to school. These people are tired of war."
> That seemed to be the case when Lieut. Noel Bergeron led a patrol of
> four Humvees around and through Kandahar to show the flag and drop in
> on local police headquarters. On their maps, they named the local
> roads after beers -- such as Michelob, Labatts, Rolling Rock, Amstel,
> Killians, Heineken, Bud Lite and Molson Ice.
> Levity aside, as he prepared to drive down a road named for a
> forbidden beer, Lieut. Bergeron cautioned his soldiers.
> "It's never a routine patrol," he told them.
> As the convoy hit the first mud-walled desert village south of
> Kandahar, children rushed to the roadside, waving and giving the
> thumbs-up signal.
> "We've also taught them the Hawaiian shaka," Lieut. Bergeron says,
> extending the thumb and small finger of one hand in the 'be cool'
> surfer salute to illustrate what he means.
> The convoy stops at a 44-man station on the northern rim of the city.
> Police chief Manan Khan, a member of the Alokozie tribe, runs it.
> "Most district police chiefs are Alokozie because the police chief of
> Kandahar province is Alokozie," Lieut. Bergeron says. "It works
> better that way."
> He makes notes in a small black book as Manan Khan explains his
> peacekeeping problems. Most involve members of the Afghan Militia
> Force -- the old Afghan army -- breaking into houses or robbing
> people at gunpoint. Lieut. Bergeron explains that will soon stop. The
> program to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate members of the Afghan
> militia into the civilian population is under way.
> There is also a campaign to register all guns -- primarily AK-47
> assault rifles. Families may keep those weapons in their homes for
> self-defence, but they won't be allowed to take them into the streets.
> "It's just like Montana," says Lieut. Bergeron. "Everyone here has a
> gun but soon the police will be the only ones carrying AK-47s."
> As Lieut. Bergeron prepares to leave, Manan Khan tells him that
> everyone must learn to be patient.
> "Afghanistan was not broken in just 30 days so it will not be fixed
> in one day," he says through an interpreter.
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