KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Village elders from across Gereshk held a shura to discuss how to solve problems involving local security in the village in the Gereshk District, Helmand province, Nov. 24.
Haji Kaduz, a respected tribal elder who controlled a vast amount of the land in and around Gereshk prior to the Taliban reign, called the shura, which included members of the Afghan National Police, Afghan National Army, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan as well as elements of coalition forces and U.S. Special Forces who operate in the area.
“We just need to be together and trust each other,” Haji Kaduz said. “Everyday our children are dying. We are always praying to Allah to give us the power, why not do something. Our fathers took control of security of our country-they did not just sit in a compound. We need to do something to show the next generation the right thing to do.”
At times during the discussion, elders would validate the thought of Haji Kaduz by giving a rousing round of applause or verbal agreements.
One elder stood after Kaduz’s opening and asked who would help the government and in turn everyone raised their hands in agreement.
Haji Kaduz continued asking questions of the men in attendance, “Why are we not stopping [the insurgents]? We do not have any schools here; our children are far from education. Why? What have the Taliban done for you?”
He followed up his questions with a simple answer, “Do something now, for your family, so that the next generation can be educated.”
A Special Forces captain stood at that point and began to present a possible solution. He spoke about how he thought that no one had come to the shura just because they wanted security.
He went on to say that they had come because they wanted to take responsibility for their problems.
“We can’t fix all of the problems alone,” the captain said. “We need the support of the people and the communities here. There are only so many Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police that can be here at once. So, it is very important that Afghans find a solution to Afghan problems. This is why Haji Kaduz called this meeting.”
Kaduz made a comparison to the on-going killing in Afghanistan and how it is not a Jihad. He said that a true Jihad is not the killing of the innocent. He spoke of unity to find the solution, standing side-by-side for a worthy cause-that of the future of Afghanistan.
“If we are together then nobody can break us,” he said. “So we must always be together for our country. If I am saying something wrong take this boy and put him in my position. I don’t care, because we need to do the right thing. Stop the insurgents, or stand up to them.”
Again the crowd echoed in agreement to Haji Kaduz and the ideals of a secure future.
“We accept you as an elder, whatever you tell us we will do,” said an elder. “Tell us what we need to do.”
Kaduz then continued saying that the insurgents walk around our country with rifles, and in turn we walk around our country with rifles-we are not free in our own country.
“Everyone is complaining about dropping bombs on our houses, it is because of us,” he said, adding that no one stops the insurgents from using our houses to fire rifles out of the windows. “Why don’t you stop them? It is because of this that [the insurgents] are here.”
“Whatever Haji Kaduz says we are behind him and we will do,” an elder stood and exclaimed to the crowd.
“Yes, we need to go home and talk to our families,” said the elder, gesturing toward Haji Kaduz, who has continuously used his influence to protect the people of Gereshk. “Whatever our elders say, we will do. That was the man that saved our families, so we must respect him.”
The Special Forces captain added a final thought as the elders began readying themselves for a break and a traditional Afghan meal.
“So as you provide security for your villages I want you to know that GIRoA is here to support you in that effort,” he said.
An elder stood and asked for a round of applause for the speakers, ending the shura with this thought.
“We know that the government is here to help,” he said. “We are aware you have come all of this way to help us, so we are ready to help you.”