HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan --
With Garmsir’s streets clear of insurgents the next steps in the counterinsurgency campaign, reconstruction and renovation, can begin with the district governor’s priorities including repairs to the irrigation system, and refurbishment of the hospital and schools.
After years of damages caused by strife and neglect, a canal system built by USAID in the 1950’s is in desperate need of repair. USAID engineers, finally able to evaluate the irrigation system, identified 11 problem areas, including damage from ongoing conflicts and overgrowth of vegetation.
Garmsir is a rich, agricultural area with farming as the basis of the local economy. Shortly after securing the area, the citizens and District Governor Abdullah Jan came to the Marines and asked for help in getting the canals repaired.
“In places, bombing had damaged sluice gates and in others the system was simply in disrepair because the government had not been able to do projects there,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rene Cote, civil affairs officer, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, NATO-ISAF. “So we worked with USAID and sought their help in funding and providing technical assistance to repair the system. We believe that the improved security and repaired canal and irrigation system will set the conditions for alternative crop programs to be introduced by the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.”
A district hospital is now providing some basic health care for the local population from unrefurbished premises. One doctor sees 80 to 100 patients daily and British forces plan to revamp the structure and décor.
“This should enable the hospital to attract more staff and to provide a more comprehensive service. People are delighted to have any healthcare in the district,”
said Louise Perrotta, stabilization advisor, Task Force Helmand, ISAF.
With an eye on the future, residents have expressed repeatedly the need for a school; the one in the city district was severely damaged by insurgent fighting.
The Amir Agha School is one of nine quick impact projects planned for the region. The school will receive new windows, doors, a new well, furniture, paint and undergo a thorough cleaning.
Additional impact projects include building three irrigation wells, eight replacement wells in Jugroom Fort area villages, repairing the Amir Agha Mosque and shrine, replacing another mosque’s speaker system, and clearing overgrowth from the canal system.
These projects are designed to provide immediate benefits, such as the wells and canal cleanup, as well as to demonstrate the Marines’ respect for the populace’s religious beliefs by providing funds for their cultural institutions.
In all these projects the Marines have worked with local elders to identify needs and then provide funding. The work is performed by local Afghan contractors and workers.
“We sought to provide assistance based on local community needs. In some villages there was an urgent need to provide drinking water and irrigation so we quickly responded by getting funding and contractors to start on those. We’ve also funded repairs to a couple of village cultural buildings. These efforts will be completed before we leave,” said Cote.
In total, $20,000 will be spent improving and renovating needed facilities in the region. Ultimately this investment is intended to help the people of Garmsir help themselves.
Garmsir has a self-reliant and resilient population who regularly reply to “what do you need?” with “just security, we can do the rest,” according to Perrota.
The local Afghan governance is conducting meetings, coordinating projects, hearing local grievances, and organizing economic and social events in Garmsir, said Cote.
“I consider this significant because it re-emphasizes that they are capable of self-sufficient management and action to conduct reconstruction and development within their means,” said Lieutenant Col. Anthony Henderson, battalion commander, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, ISAF.