Jul 8, 2009

Update: Operation Khandjar


July 8, 2009 6 p.m. local time

KHAN NESHIN, Helmand Province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan –

The Afghan national flag was raised above Khan Neshin castle in the Rig District Center July 8 for the first time, signaling the arrival of Afghan governance in the southern reaches of Helmand Province.

Khan Neshin and the areas south of the Helmand River have never experienced the sustained presence of coalition forces or Afghan National Security Forces, until now, seven days after the beginning of Operation Khanjar.

“The number one question we get from the people is, ‘when are you leaving?’” said Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, commanding general of Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan. “The answer is we’re not leaving until the transition for security is made to the provincial government, to include the Afghan forces.”

Afghans from the local populace came to Khan Neshin shortly after the flag was raised, where they heard statements from Helmand Governor Gulab Mangal and newly-appointed Rig District Governor Massoud Jan. Dozens of locals then gathered around a large courtyard within the district center to sign up for voting in the upcoming national elections.

“Look at them,” said Gen. Muhaidin, brigade commander, 3rd Afghan National Army Brigade, 205 Corps, gesturing toward the crowd. “Now they know that the government is here and they have security. (The Afghans) have hope, that’s why they’re here.”

PHOTO CAPTION: Helmand Province Gov. Gulab Mangal raises the flag of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan over Khan Neshin castle in the Rig District Center July 8. The governor met with local leaders and citizens to discuss how the provincial government can provide services to the people of Khan Neshin, a former Taliban stronghold in the Helmand River valley. (USMC photo by Cpl. Aaron Rooks)

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