December 19th, 2006 13:46 EST
New security base established in Laghman Province
FORWARD OPERATING BASE MEHTAR LAM, Afghanistan (AFPN) -- On a scenic plateau above the Alishang River in northern Laghman Province laid the earthly remains of some 20 Afghan mujahedeen fighters who occupied this land and fought to the last man against the Soviet Army.
This hallowed ground is once again the focal point in the battle against tyranny and oppression as new generations of Afghans occupy this historic land to establish a government presence in an area frequented by anti-government extremists.
This time the fighters are with the Afghan national security forces and their occupation of the newly opened Security Base Najil was sealed with a flag-raising ceremony Dec. 12 during Operation West Hammer.
"There have been enemies in this very area in the recent past," said Lt. Col. Sheir Ahmad, Afghan national army 3rd Battalion commander. "But this area now belongs to the Afghan national army and Afghan national police."
The commander said he has confidence Security Base Najil will benefit the local population. Construction of the base itself has already proved beneficial to the area, as local workers were hired to do much of the work. They built protective walls, helped unload supplies for the base and assisted with other jobs.
An immediate benefit local villagers experienced on the day of the flag-raising was a Medical Civic Assistance Program -- or MEDCAP -- event sponsored by the Mehtar Lam Provincial Reconstruction Team. Medics provided care to more than 1,100 people, said Army Capt. Paul McCarthy, Mehtar Lam PRT Civil Affairs team leader.
"We are working together with the government of Afghanistan to improve the lives of the people in Alishang and provide a brighter future for their children," he said.
"Laghman Governor Golab Mangal wants to bring roads, schools and clinics to northern Alishang," said the ANA commander. "But security must be established first, and that's why we are here."
Many residents welcomed the sight of the new installation -- the first ANSF base in the northern part of the province.
"The locals are very happy to see the ANA here," said Lt. Col. Brad Bredenkamp, Mehtar Lam PRT commander. "They know the army will protect them and they're eager to work with the government."
Having the new ANSF base in an area formerly controlled by extremists will give ISAF forces more freedom to operate, said Colonel Bredenkamp. It also gives the people there the opportunity to start seeing more results from the government officials they've elected, through reconstruction.
"This is a big turning point in this area," said Colonel Bredenkamp.
The ANA is slated to be the primary force at Security Base Najil. However, some Afghan police will be based there to work alongside the army. ISAF forces may also use the base when operating in the area.
Establishment of Security Base Najil was an objective of Operation West Hammer. The operation was aimed at defeating anti-government elements in the Alishang Valley and was carried out primarily by Task Force Chosin and the ANSF.
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by Capt. Gerardo Gonzalez
Mehtar Lam Provincial Reconstruction Team