LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan --
The commanding general of Regional Command (Southwest) attended a shura Feb. 10 held by the provincial governor of Helmand to discuss security leading up to the national elections.
The shura, a traditional Afghan meeting where leaders from local villages and the district can meet to discuss issues and other important topics, was held by leaders from the five pillars of the Afghan National Security Forces: the Afghan National Army, Afghan Uniform Police, Afghan Border Police, Afghan National Civil Order Police and the National Directorate of Security. It was presided over by Provincial Governor Mohammad Naem at the provincial police headquarters in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province, Afghanistan.
The shura was held to discuss the upcoming Afghan national elections, which are scheduled to take place April 5.
“This is the first shura I’ve attended since taking command Feb. 5,” said Brig. Gen. Daniel D. Yoo, the commanding general of Regional Command (Southwest). “It was good to hear an update on recent successes in Helmand and to see coordination taking place that will set the conditions for the national elections.”
“(Gov. Naem) was receiving the information; he was also giving guidance and his perspective on things,” said Col. Christopher Dowling, the senior advisor for the Operations Coordination Center-Regional, who attended the shura. “He was in command, and he was directing the meeting and fully in control of it. That says a lot about him and how the leadership views him. They all got to hear and see what the boss wanted, they all got to brief him, they all got to discuss their concerns and the PG left in a happy mood.”
Election security and the safety of the voters are primary concerns for the ANSF because of the importance of the election and the impact it could have on the nation.
“Leaders of the ANSF are anticipating insurgent activity and are doing everything they can to prevent hostility and provide a safe voting experience to the people of Helmand province,” said Brig. Gen. Yoo.
The shura focused on three key factors: what they are doing to prepare for the upcoming elections, how they are going to distribute the materials and the logistics of the election itself. Coalition representatives were present at the shura, but the focus was on ANSF leadership.
“It was just a positive meeting with the individuals present,” Dowling said. “The elections were predominantly the focus in the conversations.”
During the last presidential election in 2009, the security for the ballots and polling sites was provided by the coalition forces and the ANSF. However, this year the ANSF will take on the entire task with only advisory help from coalition service members.
“We’re trying to really minimize our presence in this,” Dowling said. “It’s really a baton handoff. I believe in what they’re doing, I really do believe in these guys.”
The current president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, is not eligible to run for re-election due to term limits, making this the first transfer of the presidency since his inauguration during 2004 and the first democratic transition of power in the history of Afghanistan.
“I think the elections are going to go well,” Dowling said. “Obviously, there is command and unity of effort both with the government and the leadership. That’s very positive. They’re leaning into how they’re going to do the distribution of the ballots and how they’re going to support the polling stations. They’re leaning way forward to how they’re going to do things in the future.”