By Air Force Capt. Tony Wickman
Special to American Forces Press Service
Nov. 13, 2009 - Four provincial governors and a 21-member executive committee from the eastern Afghanistan peace and development jirga – a group of elders -- met in the Nangarhar governor's compound Nov. 10 to discuss the group's charter and its top priorities. Provincial governors, elders and religious leaders from Nangarhar, Kunar, Nuristan and Laghman provinces gathered to lay out their home-grown plan to improve security and development in the four easternmost Afghan provinces.
The group's top priority is to find ways to reconcile with Taliban and other Afghans who do not support the central government.
"Today is a day of happiness, because we are working for future peace and development," said Nangarhar Gov. Gul Agha Sherzai. "The main purpose today is to discuss the problems and work for the reconciliation in the eastern zone. We want to bring our brothers back to peace."
Sherzai said many problems need resolution, and he called on the executive committee to rise to the challenge.
The committee's main objective is to support President Hamid Karzai's decree of national reconciliation.
"We're ahead of what is happening elsewhere in Afghanistan, and it's being noticed in Kabul," said Kunar Gov. Fazlullah Wahidi. "We must reconcile with our brothers, because the fighting isn't working."
Lagham Gov. Lutfullah Mashal told the committee that the regional jirga does not conflict with the laws or will of the national government.
"I believe what we do here is in agreement with the Afghan Constitution and will bridge the gap between the [religious] leaders, the government and the people," Mashal said. "The jirga will have a strong relationship with Kabul."
The jirga will help to address, over the long term, many of the economic, security and social problems in the eastern provinces, he added.
Army Col. Randy A. George, Task Force Mountain Warrior commander, attended the meetings as an observer and expressed support for the group.
"We're pleased to see Afghan-led initiatives at the regional and subregional level that can help connect traditional structures to the government, and pursue local opportunities for progress," George said. "We're here to help and support such endeavors, where Afghans work together for greater prosperity and peace."
The executive committee discussed its charter and mission statement, and voted in agreement on each tenet. Handling reconciliation, fighting narcotics and smuggling, rooting out corruption, helping with employment and social justice programs and coordinating on development projects are included in the charter.
The committee also agreed that the governors would support the jirga executive committee financially to execute the charter. After the meeting, the four governors dedicated with much fanfare a new office for the executive committee near the Nangarhar governor's compound.
Sherzai told the executive committee to return in a week and bring their ideas, information and plans from their communities on what it will take to reconcile with "our sad brothers."
(Air Force Capt. Tony Wickman serves in the public affairs office of the provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan's Kunar province.)