By Army 1st Lt. Christopher Stachura
Special to American Forces Press Service
April 7, 2009 - Soldiers from Task Force Catamount recently met with village elders to address concerns, build relationships and inform residents about ongoing operations in central Afghanistan's Wardak province. The province's Nerkh district comprises several remote areas that are known safe havens for Taliban. During a recent mission, soldiers from Blackhawk Company, 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, noted the importance of building relationships with villagers in remote areas.
"In the past, Taliban have found sanctuary in remote areas of Wardak province," Army Capt. James McCune, Blackhawk Company commander, said. "The summer fighting season is approaching and we have undertaken a proactive approach to combat the arrival of insurgents.
"We are developing relationships with local leaders throughout Nerkh and Mayden Shahr, letting them know we are here to bring peace and substantive economic improvements. The insurgent campaign of intimidation will be challenged at every turn."
Some villages confirmed a Taliban presence in their area, but were unwilling to elaborate out of fear of reprisals. Village elders stressed to the team that if they had access to jobs, the Taliban would lose local support.
Task Force Catamount is slated to spend several million dollars in Wardak province on an array of projects designed to improve the local economy. The projects include highway construction, bridge repair, construction of clinics and schools, well repair, irrigation construction, and solar panels for electricity.
"The arrival of Catamount soldiers marks a new beginning for all people in Wardak province," Army Sgt. Maj. Patrick T. Corcoran, TF Catamount, said. "The security has improved and economic development is ongoing. We are highly trained and well-resourced to accomplish this type of mission."
Last month, 3rd Platoon soldiers travelled to the secluded village of Qal eh-ye Jalal Boji to speak with villagers and hear their concerns. Village elders asked for assistance irrigating their crops, fixing their water pump, and finding a way to provide water for the village during the summer months when the well dries up.
In western Mayden Shahr district, 1st Platoon, Blackhawk Company, conducted patrols in the villages of Busraq, Mullakaka and Torkhill. Unlike more secluded areas where villagers approach with caution, the villagers of Busraq warmly welcomed the soldiers.
"We are extremely pleased to have you visit our village," Busraq village elder Momad Jan said. "It is the first time since American forces have been in Afghanistan that anyone has taken the time to stop and talk with us about our problems."
With relationships established in remote areas, the company plans to continue joint operations with Afghan national security forces, ensuring the newly formed relationships with villagers continue.
"We are encouraged by your presence and look forward to your help," Anaitullah, a village elder of Torkhill, said.
(Army 1st Lt. Christopher Stachura serves with 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment. Army 1st Lt. Eric Thomsett contributed to this article.)