District officials, PRT members discuss improvements in Musa Qal'ah

30 Nov 2012 | Cpl. Mark Garcia

MUSA QAL’AH DISTRICT CENTER, Afghanistan – Members of the Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team met with local Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan officials and local village elders in an effort to assess governance, security and stability in Musa Qal’ah, Afghanistan, Nov. 29.

During recent years, Musa Qal’ah has undergone drastic changes in an effort to better the lives of the Afghan people living here. The meeting was designed to continue the improvements in the area and to help build upon them as coalition forces withdraw and authority and responsibilities shift to the Afghans.

“Our mission is to facilitate transition to the Afghan government, and it’s important in our role to support them, to see how they’re doing, and where we might be able to help provide advice to the Afghan government on how to better deliver services to the people,” said Matt Duncan, a political officer with the Helmand PRT, and Rochester, N.Y., native. “Musa Qal’ah is light-years ahead of where it was two years ago, and that’s thanks to the work done by the Marines and the Afghan National Security Forces, as well as the Afghan government.”

Staff Sgt. Ben Lund, civil affairs with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 7, noted the increased security presence in the area and how the ANSF continue to provide stability to the region.

“Securitywise, Musa Qal’ah has probably come twofold. Its security has progressed 100 percent,” said Lund, from Phoenix. “The (Afghan Uniform Police) and (Afghan National Army) operate by themselves with little to no assistance. There are fewer (improvised explosive devices), and the ANA and AUP are finding those IEDS and neutralizing them. They’ll call Marine Corps (explosive ordnance disposal) every once in a while if they need to get rid of something, but for the most part, they handle it on their own. They’re patrolling by themselves, they’re arresting people, and they had a huge drug bust just last week and processed everything and took it to Lashkar Gah by themselves.”

Because of the work done by Marines, ANSF, the PRT and local government officials, the future of Musa Qal’ah looks promising.

“We were able to talk about the thriving bazaar,” Duncan said. “There are 900 shops in it, and people from all across northern Helmand come to it to buy goods. The economy in Musa Qal’ah is thriving at the moment. People can now move with relative freedom from the district to Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital. They use the bazaar and the Taliban is gone from the district center.”

The meeting also marked another milestone by allowing village elders the opportunity to talk with GIRoA officals.

“The PRT came down to talk to the acting district governor because he is able to talk to the elders in Musa Qal’ah, and that’s who we spoke with today,” Lund said. “That’s the first time that (village elders) came and talked to GIRoA officials. We’re trying to get the elders to bring their face forward and support GIRoA. Once the village elders put some people in key positions, hopefully they can get additional money to the area and increase development, increase security and hopefully find an alternate crop to poppy.”

Until coalition forces completely withdraw from Afghanistan, they will ensure development continues in areas such as Musa Qal’ah.

“Musa Qal’ah, from where it was just a few years ago, is a good story,” Duncan said. “You used to not be able to walk out of the (forward operating base) without getting shot at, and nobody would be in the bazaar. The bazaar is thriving now, kids are going to school and a lot of progress has been made here.”