Afghanistan — Life returns to Kajaki village thanks to ISAF and ANP forces

After almost half-a-decade of being aban­doned and des­o­late, life is begin­ning to return to a vil­lage at the foot of the Kaja­ki Dam in Hel­mand province thanks to the pres­ence of British, Amer­i­can and local Afghan Nation­al Police (ANP) forces.

The village of Tangye
Tangye bak­ers knead dough on a bro­ken wood­en door in the vil­lage bak­ery to meet fresh local demand
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The vil­lage of Tangye, at the foot of the strate­gi­cal­ly-impor­tant Kaja­ki Dam, has stood emp­ty for near­ly five years, its peo­ple dri­ven out by the Tal­iban.

Motor­cy­cle and car parts, per­son­al pos­ses­sions and house­hold goods are strewn in the streets in front of crum­bling shop fronts with bent and twist­ed shut­ters, imply­ing the peo­ple of Tangye left in a hur­ry.

But thanks to the pres­ence of British, and now Amer­i­can, boots on the ground, and a very strong Afghan Nation­al Police pres­ence, peo­ple are begin­ning to trick­le back to Tangye.

There is a bak­ery in town again. For the moment it only has two fam­i­lies as cus­tomers but it is sell­ing to the Afghan Nation­al Police and ISAF troops too:

“We’ve told our­selves we’ll give it a year. It’s fine for the moment. No one both­ers us,” said the bak­er, Mohammed Bilal, as he knead­ed dough on a bro­ken wood­en door.

The local police chief, Haji Faizul­lah, is the rea­son the bak­er can be so opti­mistic.

His force of 48 offi­cers is mak­ing hero­ic efforts to secure the town against an ever-present Tal­iban threat.

They are spread across five bases and check­points, not just pro­tect­ing Tangye but also a num­ber of out­ly­ing vil­lages:

“We patrol every night until morn­ing while ISAF troops keep watch from the hills,” said Police Chief Faizul­lah.

“This is to keep the ene­my away. It is very green around here, with lots of trees and under­growth, so if we don’t patrol they can creep clos­er.”

Tangye
Two young Tangye locals stop to talk with a Roy­al Marine
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

One man who has come back to join the fight to pro­tect Tangye is Khalid Wal. He had a tai­lor­ing shop in the bazaar until five years ago when he and his fam­i­ly were forced to flee:

“I have signed as a police­man for three years. If the bazaar reopens and the oth­er busi­ness peo­ple come back then I will reopen my shop,” he said.

Anoth­er local named Ish­mat­ul­lah has moved his fam­i­ly back to Tangye.

He said the Tal­iban came to his farm last year and burned all his crops with­out giv­ing him any expla­na­tion. After endur­ing years of intim­i­da­tion he and his wife returned to their for­mer home with 13 mem­bers of their fam­i­ly:

“We came qui­et­ly in the night,” said Ish­mat­ul­lah. “The Tal­iban didn’t know we were leav­ing. We feel a lot safer here.”

He is now wait­ing to go to police train­ing col­lege in Lashkar Gah so he can offi­cial­ly be reg­is­tered as a mem­ber of the ANP.

In the last cou­ple of weeks Abdul Satar has also sought refuge in Tangye with his wife and three chil­dren. He too will go to train in Lashkar Gah, adding anoth­er name to the police chief’s roll:

“We put our­selves in dan­ger because of our coun­try, because of our fam­i­lies and because of our loca­tion,” said police­man Mira­jan.

His col­league, Abdel Rashid, added:

“The Tal­iban are very cru­el peo­ple and it is because of this that I put my life in dan­ger, to sup­port my fam­i­ly.”

Police Chief Faizul­lah, who was born and grew up in the town, and has spent all his career in Tangye, said:

“Before the Tal­iban came the bazaar was open and busi­ness was thriv­ing with 200 shops. There was a cat­tle mar­ket and peo­ple would come from all around.

“It is my ambi­tion that it will be like that again but we do need more gov­ern­ment resources if we are to be able to dri­ve the Tal­iban away for good.”

Sergeant Major John Brown, 1st Bat­tal­ion Scots Guards, is one of the rea­sons the ANP in Tangye is so strong.

He has been attached to 40 Com­man­do as one of the police men­tors since Feb­ru­ary, join­ing the police­men of Tangye on patrol and teach­ing them first aid skills and counter-IED meth­ods.

Tangye police chief, Haji Faizullah
Glad to be home: Afghan vil­lagers Abdul Satar and Ish­mat­ul­lah with Tangye police chief, Haji Faizul­lah
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

He is not look­ing for­ward to leav­ing the men he now counts as his friends to train oth­er police offi­cers else­where, but he does acknowl­edge that they need him less now:

“They’re very pro­fes­sion­al, very proac­tive,” he said. “A lot of the time they don’t ask for ISAF sup­port, they just go out them­selves in the ear­ly hours of the morn­ing, patrolling reg­u­lar­ly through the towns.

“They are not told to, they just do it. The Chief of Police is quite proac­tive in push­ing them out as far as he can get them safe­ly. They keep the locals that are here safe.”

See more pic­tures from Tangye in the Gallery at Relat­ed Links.

ISAF troops can walk the streets of Tangye safe­ly now. As well as the ANP on the ground, they have the whole area under sur­veil­lance for miles around from their patrol bases in the hills.

In recent weeks it has been British and Amer­i­can Marines, side by side, but the British are now prepar­ing to hand over respon­si­bil­i­ty for the area to allow them to rein­force troop num­bers in San­gin.

British forces have already hand­ed over respon­si­bil­i­ty for secu­ri­ty in the town of Kaja­ki to US forces — see Relat­ed News.

While secur­ing the dam is essen­tial giv­en it pro­vides a large pro­por­tion of the elec­tric­i­ty for Hel­mand and Kan­da­har provinces, secur­ing the slow­ly return­ing pop­u­la­tion of Tangye and all the vil­lages around it is the pri­or­i­ty now.

The Afghans are going to need aid and recon­struc­tion projects to pick up the pieces if they are going to pro­vide the next gen­er­a­tion with a viable future.

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK