By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
March 8, 2010 - Operations in Helmand province will serve as a template for future operations elsewhere in Afghanistan, NATO's senior civilian representative here said today. Ambassador Mark Sedwill, who served as British ambassador to Afghanistan, said the operation is different from others in three basic ways. The first, he said, is that from its inception, NATO's regional commander, British Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, and his Afghan counterparts planned the operation "from the end-game backwards."
"And the end-game is the civilian delivery of governance and development," Sedwill said.
The second difference, Sedwill said, is the integration of Afghan and coalition forces. The operation was authorized and led by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his team, the people of Helmand wanted the operation to proceed, far more Afghan troops are on the ground, and the Afghan government has led the effort totally, he noted.
The third difference is the integration between the provincial and national governments, he said. National ministries have been intimately involved with the planning and allocation of resources to the effort, Sedwill said. Karzai traveled to Helmand and held a meeting with the elders of the province yesterday.
As the effort in Helmond transitions into the "hold and build" portion of the strategy, some quick projects already have begun. Bazaars, schools and clinics are reopening, and money is flowing to clear irrigation ditches. "All this is just to get normal life moving again," Sedwill explained.
The government also is totally revamping the police in the province. "One of the reasons the Taliban [were] able to control this area was the police had, in effect, been captured by some local warlords who were using them against the population," Sedwill said. "The people told Karzai that they would not accept the old police force, and in fact said they would fight again should that be the case.
"It is absolutely critical that policing, in particular, delivers what the people of the area require: honest and decent policemen," he added.
The answer was to bring the Civil Order Police into the region, and they will stay there for months, the ambassador said, while new local police are recruited and trained.
Because many of the same problems exist elsewhere in the country, Sedwill noted, the experiences in Marja and Helmand are transferrable. "Dealing with those political issues ... is going to be a big part of how we are going to shape the campaign as we bring it forward," he said.