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USMC, Afghanistan  Michael Hubler
 Dec 24, 2009 07:20 PST 


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Marines, defiant locals bring life to Helmand ghost town

Published: Dec. 24, 2009 at 9:00 AM

By RICHARD TOMKINS
UPI Correspondent

NOW ZAD, Afghanistan, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- Hundreds of Afghans in a =
northwestern corner of Helmand province are defying Taliban death =
threats to breathe new life into a community Islamic extremists had long =
turned into a ghost town.

In the western sector of Now Zad, close to the main operating base of =
the U.S. Marines who liberated the town in early December, turbaned men =
from outlying villages clean debris from the town's roadside drainage =
channels while others haul away the crumbled walls of stores and homes.

Children join them in the afternoon after attending basic literacy =
classes in a makeshift school started by Marines and their =
Afghan-American interpreters.

"They (the Taliban) have told us not to open our shops, to stay away and =
not cooperate with the Americans," said Abdul Qayoom. "I'm scared but I =
don't care. I need the money. I have to open my shop again."

Now Zad was, from 2006, a major Taliban command-and-control and supply =
center for extremists in the province's northern and central river =
valleys. Small units of British troops at first and, later, U.S. =
Marines, were in Now Zad but basically confined to a small base on one =
edge of the community. On the opposite edge and sides were 100-200 =
Taliban gunmen. In between was the built-up area of Now Zad, a no-man's =
land by Taliban decree and design: Streets were seeded with improvised =
explosive devices and houses were booby trapped with bombs.

Now Zad's 30,000 residents retreated to outlying villages. And waited.

"The enemy came here and planted their flag," said Lt. Col. Martin =
Wetterauer, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines. "The locals =
from this area were pushed out, chased off, so the last few years all =
they've wanted to do was go home. We want to give them that (their town) =
back."

A week after pushing insurgents out and into nearby mountains and =
neighboring districts in a surprise air-and-ground assault, 3-4 Marines =
met with elders in neighboring villages and told them men would be paid =
about $6 a day if they came back to Now Zad and helped rebuild their =
town. The first day about 110 men showed up for work with their shovels =
and wheel barrows. On Day 2, more than 200 appeared for work. By Day 4, =
the daily average was more than 500.

=46rom the main bazaar street of adjoining single-story shops in western =
Now Zad, workers on their own began clearing side streets as well and =
are worked into residential areas despite Marine warnings of mines.

"It's amazing," Wetterauer said. "The success (with the local =
population) is bigger than we expected at this point."

Wetterauer and Capt. Jason Brezler, in charge of civil affairs projects =
in Now Zad for 3-4, said when they first met with village leaders they =
offered to build schools and medical clinics in the outlying =
communities. The elders turned them down. They wanted the facilities =
back in the town to which many intended to return.

Brezler's civil affairs work is part and parcel of the "clear, hold and =
build" counterinsurgency strategy U.S. troops applied successfully in =
Iraq and are now transferring to Afghanistan: Clear an area of enemy =
gunmen; hold it by establishing manned outposts in the sectors from =
which troops patrol constantly and build relationships with the people; =
and then rebuild community infrastructure with local labor to give =
people a personal stake in improved security and ties with the native =
government.

Some of Brezler's workers may have, at one time or another, worked with =
the Taliban, but that was usually for economic reasons rather than =
ideological ones. The Taliban were the only employers for years in the =
Now Zad district, an area of desert with subsistence agriculture =
suffering from drought. But "if a man has work during the day that puts =
food on the table he's unlikely to go out into a wadi (ravine) late at =
night to go plant an IED for the Taliban for money," Brezler said.

Marines say workers have told them "night letters" are appearing in the =
villages. Those are communications from Taliban hiding in the area and =
warning villagers against working with the Americans or sending their =
children to school.

Abdul Qayoom will be particularly marked. His restaurant was the first =
business to open in Now Zad in four years.

"This was my grand opening," he said through an interpreter. "I had =
maybe 200 customers (all workers) but I didn't charge them today. My big =
hope is that in the future I have the restaurant I had before, with many =
people coming for lunch while shopping."


=A9 2009 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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<html><head></head><body style=3D"word-wrap: break-word; =
-webkit-nbsp-mode: space; -webkit-line-break: after-white-space; =
"><div>Marines, defiant locals bring life to Helmand ghost =
town</div><div><br></div><div>Published: Dec. 24, 2009 at 9:00 =
AM</div><div><br></div><div>By RICHARD TOMKINS</div><div>UPI =
Correspondent</div><div><br></div><div>NOW ZAD, Afghanistan, Dec. 24 =
(UPI) -- Hundreds of Afghans in a northwestern corner of Helmand =
province are defying Taliban death threats to breathe new life into a =
community Islamic extremists had long turned into a ghost =
town.</div><div><br></div><div>In the western sector of Now Zad, close =
to the main operating base of the U.S. Marines who liberated the town in =
early December, turbaned men from outlying villages clean debris from =
the town's roadside drainage channels while others haul away the =
crumbled walls of stores and homes.</div><div><br></div><div>Children =
join them in the afternoon after attending basic literacy classes in a =
makeshift school started by Marines and their Afghan-American =
interpreters.</div><div><br></div><div>"They (the Taliban) have told us =
not to open our shops, to stay away and not cooperate with the =
Americans," said Abdul Qayoom. "I'm scared but I don't care. I need the =
money. I have to open my shop again."</div><div><br></div><div>Now Zad =
was, from 2006, a major Taliban command-and-control and supply center =
for extremists in the province's northern and central river valleys. =
Small units of British troops at first and, later, U.S. Marines, were in =
Now Zad but basically confined to a small base on one edge of the =
community. On the opposite edge and sides were 100-200 Taliban gunmen. =
In between was the built-up area of Now Zad, a no-man's land by Taliban =
decree and design: Streets were seeded with improvised explosive devices =
and houses were booby trapped with bombs.</div><div><br></div><div>Now =
Zad's 30,000 residents retreated to outlying villages. And =
waited.</div><div><br></div><div>"The enemy came here and planted their =
flag," said Lt. Col. Martin Wetterauer, commander of the 3rd Battalion, =
4th Marines. "The locals from this area were pushed out, chased off, so =
the last few years all they've wanted to do was go home. We want to give =
them that (their town) back."</div><div><br></div><div>A week after =
pushing insurgents out and into nearby mountains and neighboring =
districts in a surprise air-and-ground assault, 3-4 Marines met with =
elders in neighboring villages and told them men would be paid about $6 =
a day if they came back to Now Zad and helped rebuild their town. The =
first day about 110 men showed up for work with their shovels and wheel =
barrows. On Day 2, more than 200 appeared for work. By Day 4, the daily =
average was more than 500.</div><div><br></div><div>=46rom the main =
bazaar street of adjoining single-story shops in western Now Zad, =
workers on their own began clearing side streets as well and are worked =
into residential areas despite Marine warnings of =
mines.</div><div><br></div><div>"It's amazing," Wetterauer said. "The =
success (with the local population) is bigger than we expected at this =
point."</div><div><br></div><div>Wetterauer and Capt. Jason Brezler, in =
charge of civil affairs projects in Now Zad for 3-4, said when they =
first met with village leaders they offered to build schools and medical =
clinics in the outlying communities. The elders turned them down. They =
wanted the facilities back in the town to which many intended to =
return.</div><div><br></div><div>Brezler's civil affairs work is part =
and parcel of the "clear, hold and build" counterinsurgency strategy =
U.S. troops applied successfully in Iraq and are now transferring to =
Afghanistan: Clear an area of enemy gunmen; hold it by establishing =
manned outposts in the sectors from which troops patrol constantly and =
build relationships with the people; and then rebuild community =
infrastructure with local labor to give people a personal stake in =
improved security and ties with the native =
government.</div><div><br></div><div>Some of Brezler's workers may have, =
at one time or another, worked with the Taliban, but that was usually =
for economic reasons rather than ideological ones. The Taliban were the =
only employers for years in the Now Zad district, an area of desert with =
subsistence agriculture suffering from drought. But "if a man has work =
during the day that puts food on the table he's unlikely to go out into =
a wadi (ravine) late at night to go plant an IED for the Taliban for =
money," Brezler said.</div><div><br></div><div>Marines say workers have =
told them "night letters" are appearing in the villages. Those are =
communications from Taliban hiding in the area and warning villagers =
against working with the Americans or sending their children to =
school.</div><div><br></div><div>Abdul Qayoom will be particularly =
marked. His restaurant was the first business to open in Now Zad in four =
years.</div><div><br></div><div>"This was my grand opening," he said =
through an interpreter. "I had maybe 200 customers (all workers) but I =
didn't charge them today. My big hope is that in the future I have the =
restaurant I had before, with many people coming for lunch while =
shopping."</div><div><br></div><div><br></div><div>=A9 2009 United Press =
International, Inc. All Rights =
Reserved.</div><div><br></div></body></html>=

--Apple-Mail-9317--107026891--
	
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