Afghanistan — Chairman Meets With Kandahar Leaders

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, March 30, 2010 — Navy Adm. Mike Mullen attend­ed a meet­ing of com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers in the governor’s palace here today – a build­ing that used to be the head­quar­ters for Mul­lah Omar, the leader of the Tal­iban.
The chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had a full day of meet­ings with Afghan and coali­tion lead­ers.

The meet­ing – called a “shu­ra” — is the way Afghans get things done, said Frank Rug­giero, the senior civil­ian offi­cial at Region­al Com­mand South. It is the tra­di­tion­al way that Afghans dis­cuss and argue and nego­ti­ate on mat­ters affect­ing their com­mu­ni­ty. Shuras are held at all lev­els of soci­ety, from small vil­lages to nation­wide.

The Kan­da­har shu­ra was host­ed by provin­cial Gov. Tooryalai Wesa and includ­ed dis­trict gov­er­nors and sub-dis­trict lead­ers, as well as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the tribes and elders held in respect through­out the province. The sub­ject of the dis­cus­sion was the way for­ward in Kan­da­har.

All in the shu­ra rec­og­nized the prob­lems cre­at­ed by cor­rup­tion, but they dis­agreed on how to fight it. They also agreed on the need for secu­ri­ty, but dis­agreed on who would pro­vide it or which tac­tics work. “It’s a process,” Rug­giero said. “It will take a while.”

Ear­li­er, Mullen stopped at For­ward Oper­at­ing Base Wil­son and spoke to the sol­diers of the 1st Bat­tal­ion, 12th Infantry, out of Fort Car­son, Colo. Defense lead­ers had to extend the unit’s stay in Afghanistan for 10 days. The unit was sup­posed to leave at the end of May, but now won’t leave until June.

“In par­tic­u­lar, I want­ed to be with you and talk about your exten­sion,” Mullen said. “There were rumors begin­ning in Jan­u­ary, and now that has hap­pened. We worked like crazy to see if we could avoid that exten­sion.” He explained to the sol­diers that changes to the bat­tle space west of Kan­da­har made the choice inevitable.

Mullen thanked the troops for their sac­ri­fice and also thanked their fam­i­lies.

“You could­n’t do what you are doing with­out your fam­i­lies, and we real­ly appre­ci­ate that they are sac­ri­fic­ing, too,” he said.

Mullen moved on to Kan­da­har, where he met with the sol­diers of the 20th Engi­neer Bat­tal­ion. The 20th was one of the units pro­cess­ing through the facil­i­ty at Fort Hood, Texas, when the Nov. 5 shoot­ing ram­page took place. The chair­man met with sol­diers of the unit and then pinned medals on sol­diers for their actions that day. He also re-enlist­ed three sol­diers.

Also in Kan­da­har, the admi­ral met with Ver­mont Nation­al Guards­men of the 89th Brigade Com­bat Team – a unit he fed­er­al­ized ear­li­er this year in Ver­mont.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)