GARMSIR DISTRICT, Afghanistan --
The local village elders and the Afghan National Army met with the Marines of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, held a shura recently to discuss future civil affairs projects.
The projects discussed included bridge reconstruction, canal flood gates, swing sets for children and other reconstruction/development projects throughout Garmsir.
“It is important to have the shura every week, to get together and talk about the civil affairs projects, because they are a double-edged sword,” said Capt. John Kennely, the commanding officer for Lima Co., 3/1.
“We can be accused of playing favoritism. So we talk about all the civil affairs projects and talk about the proposals and assessments, and we throw them at the floor of the shura so every village elder has a say whether or not one project goes before another, or if the project should even be done. And this has actually worked really well to our advantage.
“As long as the village elders are coming and dealing with governance issues with us, they are not dealing with the Taliban,” said Kennely, 39, from Chesterland, Ohio. “This is critical for us to stabilize the region.”
The Taliban doesn’t want the village elders to have any organization, and by them coming to the Marines and talking together on upcoming policies and procedures, we can clear up many of the concerns between the locals and Marines.
“We talk about everything from civil affairs projects toconduct of Marines on patrols and cordon searches,” Kenneley said. “We address all that in the shura, and that way the village elders and villages themselves have a buy into the governance of the area.”
Establishing a legitimate government is key to fighting the counterinsurgency, and the Marines promote these positive changes by holding the shura right here in a secure area, Kenneley added.
The shura was started by 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, who was out here before 3/1. Attendance, historically, has suffered because of Taliban intimidation, and a lack of military protection for Afghan locals.
“Security has been improving, mostly because the Marines before us, and we are capitalizing on it. Now there are more and more elders showing up,” said Kenneley. “Now every village elder is their own contractor and they are trying to win over the civil affairs projects from us, so that is a good sign. The CAG projects are a key part of the shura and winning over security in the region.”