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Helmand Province governor visits local leaders, Marines in Nawa District

NAWA DISTRICT, HELMAND PROVINCE, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan —
More than 200 local Afghans gathered for a shura here with July 23, 2009. A shura serves as a meeting for locals to voice their opinions and concerns to leaders who have the power to change things.

http://www.marines.mil/units/marforcom/iimef/2ndmeb/Pages/HelmandProvincegovernorvisitslocalleaders,MarinesinNawaDistrict.aspx

7/30/2009
By Staff Sgt. William Greeson,
Regimental Combat Team 3

The provincial governor attended along with the district governor, district administrator and high-ranking officials from the Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police and U.S. Marine Corps.

“The fact that he (the provincial governor) was interested to come to Nawa is a big deal,” said Capt. Frank Biggio, the civil affairs team leader for 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment and a 38-year-old, Washington D.C. native. “It shows that it’s safe enough for him to come here and that people from all around this area with different backgrounds and views are interested to hear what he has to say.”

Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, Marine Expeditionary Brigade - Afghanistan commanding general, also attended the shura and addressed the local Afghans.

“Things are getting better, and we’re seeing more progress. It’s been a pretty incredible turn around,” said Nicholson. “The ANA is having success wherever they go. I think if we work together, we could be more effective.”

Lt. Col. William McCollough, commanding officer of 1/5, also addressed the crowd, commenting on the positive changes that have taken place in Nawa District.

“Less than a month ago, we could not have flown a helicopter in during the day. This base and this district center were subject to fire,” McCollough said. “If we tried to hold a meeting, maybe one or two elders would come. It’s been a striking difference that we hope to continue.”

With enemy contact almost nonexistent, IEDs are the enemy’s weapon of choice for disrupting the battalion’s efforts.

“The enemy is being driven out of the area, and as they go, they are leaving IEDs behind. It’s mostly affecting the people. It’s not really affecting us,” Nicholson explained. “Three children died this week because of this threat. Using all our assets, I think we can eliminate the problem.”

Members of the Taliban continue to intimidate and sometimes harm the local citizens.

“The Taliban have killed 25 people in this area. They are killing their own,” Nicholson said.

Nawa District is preparing to hold elections. This will be a major step in extending the authority of the legitimate government in the region. Many locals might think Marines will leave once the elections are over.

“They will be very surprised after the election to see that we’re still here,” Nicholson said. “The next 30 days is going to be very interesting.”

With positive changes already taking place, 1/5 believes they will be closer to completely securing Nawa District in the coming months.