Former Afghan refugee returns to Helmand with UK’s Stabilisation Unit

A for­mer refugee who fled the Tal­iban regime in Afghanistan has returned to the coun­try with the UK’s Sta­bil­i­sa­tion Unit to work as a Cul­tur­al Affairs Advi­sor in the Provin­cial Recon­struc­tion Team in Hel­mand.

Pamir Patang (right) with Governor Gulab Mangal on a recent visit to the Stabilisation Unit in London
Pamir Patang (right) with Gov­er­nor Gulab Man­gal on a recent vis­it to the Sta­bil­i­sa­tion Unit in Lon­don
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Pamir Patang fled Tal­iban-con­trolled Afghanistan in 2000. He has since become a deploy­able civil­ian expert for the UK Government’s Sta­bil­i­sa­tion Unit, owned joint­ly by the Depart­ment for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment (DFID), the For­eign & Com­mon­wealth Office (FCO) and the MOD.

A 37-year-old Pash­tun from Kab­ul who is now a British nation­al and lives with his fam­i­ly in west Lon­don, Pamir is flu­ent in Pash­tu, Dari, Eng­lish and Russ­ian; lin­guis­tic skills that are vital to the Sta­bil­i­sa­tion Unit’s work in Hel­mand.

Util­is­ing these skills Pamir was deployed in Octo­ber 2009 by the Sta­bil­i­sa­tion Unit to work as a Cul­tur­al Affairs Advi­sor in the Provin­cial Recon­struc­tion Team (PRT) in Hel­mand where he helps deliv­er cul­tur­al and polit­i­cal advice to Gov­er­nor Gulab Man­gal, Helmand’s provin­cial gov­er­nor.

His remit since then has broad­ened to include much more polit­i­cal liai­son, and today he is the Senior Afghanistan Coun­try Advi­sor:

“I’m the inter­locu­tor between the senior PRT lead­er­ship and the Afghan Gov­ern­ment, espe­cial­ly the region­al gov­er­nor Gulab Man­gal, whom I advise on British secu­ri­ty pol­i­cy and polit­i­cal affairs,” Pamir explained.

“I trav­el a lot with him and recent­ly have been out to the dis­tricts, to Nad ‘Ali, Musa Qal’ah, Baba­ji, Now Zad and Mar­jah. I’m also the cul­tur­al and polit­i­cal advi­sor to the PRT.”

In recent months, much of Pamir’s work has focused on the Mul­lah Engage­ment Pro­gramme, intend­ed to counter Tal­iban pro­pa­gan­da and edu­cate the Afghan reli­gious com­mu­ni­ty about Britain’s true inten­tions and activ­i­ties in Afghanistan.

Togeth­er with the PRT’s polit­i­cal sec­tion, Pamir was the archi­tect of this pro­gramme, get­ting the wider PRT to engage with the local reli­gious com­mu­ni­ty and liaise with the reli­gious com­mu­ni­ty in the UK.

As part of this strat­e­gy Pamir accom­pa­nied a del­e­ga­tion of Afghan mul­lahs on their vis­it to the UK ear­li­er this year:

“It was a great suc­cess,” Pamir recalled. “The first per­son they met in the UK was a British immi­gra­tion offi­cer of Pak­istani back­ground. They were sur­prised and hap­py to see him, espe­cial­ly when he greet­ed them with ‘Salaam aleikum’, the tra­di­tion­al Mus­lim greet­ing mean­ing ‘peace be with you’.”

Fur­ther meet­ings fol­lowed with British Mus­lim schol­ars and offi­cials from the FCO, DFID and the MOD. In a meet­ing with Gen­er­al Sir David Richards, the for­mer Chief of the Gen­er­al Staff, the Afghan mul­lahs met senior Mus­lim offi­cers:

“The Tal­iban tell every­one that Britain is an infi­del nation hos­tile to Mus­lims, but the mul­lahs were able to see for them­selves that in fact Britain is a tol­er­ant coun­try in which Mus­lims can build mosques and prac­tise their reli­gion peace­ful­ly,” Pamir said.

“They’ll go back to their vil­lages, preach in the mosques and spread the word based on what they have seen. Win­ning hearts and minds is the most effec­tive cam­paign in Afghanistan.”

Pamir says the PRT has made great strides dur­ing his time in Lashkar Gah. The num­ber of civil­ian staff has dou­bled, secu­ri­ty has improved dra­mat­i­cal­ly, the key Tal­iban strong­hold of Mar­jah was lib­er­at­ed from the Tal­iban dur­ing Oper­a­tion MOSHTARAK and new pro­grammes have been rolled out across the province help­ing Afghans return to nor­mal lives.

Pamir sees his work as ben­e­fit­ing both Afghanistan and his adopt­ed coun­try of Britain:

“I am very proud to be a mem­ber of British soci­ety. I have achieved a lot with­in ten years and have become a con­sul­tant to the British Gov­ern­ment,” he said.

“As a mem­ber of the Sta­bil­i­sa­tion Unit, I am help­ing sup­port the Afghan Gov­ern­ment work for a sta­ble and pros­per­ous Afghanistan and, whilst help­ing Afghanistan, we are also mak­ing the UK more secure.”

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK

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