Thursday, October 05, 2006

ANA opens base, brings stability to Kunar Province

By Army Staff Sgt. Mason T. Lowery

KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The Afghanistan flag was raised over a remote outpost in the Korangal Valley , bringing the promise of stability and national unity east into this turbulent region.

Representatives from the Afghanistan National Army, Border Police and local leaders met to establish the ANA Forward Operating Base Lumberyard and discuss an end to the lingering enemy resistance in the area.

FOB Lumberyard is the first permanent base in the Kunar Province. It is centrally located on high ground so ANA troops can observe all avenues of approach into the valley, and the Afghan Flag is visible to all who enter the Valley.

Chief of the Afghan National Army’s General Staff Gen. Bismullah Khan listened to local leaders during a Shura (tribal meeting) and extended an offer of peace.

“The path to reconciliation is open,” he said.

“The people still fighting in the hills against a stable Afghanistan are fighting for the wrong reasons.”

Khan explained that it is the leaders’ responsibility to protect their villages, and their responsibility to bring in their cousins who are still fighting.

“Bring them or their weapons to us,” Khan said. “If they stop fighting, they can join the rest of Afghanistan. We won’t arrest them and they can live in their houses with their families.”

Kunar Province, located in the northeastern part of the country on the border with Pakistan, has historically been one of the most dangerous provinces in Afghanistan. Freedom fighters fought and hid in the rugged, mountainous region during the Soviet occupation.

Last month, ANA soldiers went on the offensive with Operation Mountain Lion and stormed into the valley in the largest military effort since the Taliban was overthrown four years ago.

Khan urged the local leaders to ask their lingering fighters to join with the rest of Afghanistan. “We should cooperate and continue the proud Afghan tradition of fighting for Afghanistan.”

In a show of solidarity, the Korangal Valley leaders told Khan he merely has to tell them when the ANA wants to pick up the weapons or rogues, and they will have them ready.

The ANA has conducted operations in Kunar Province before, but Operation Mountain Lion stabilized the area and set the conditions for the Afghanistan Government to establish FOB Lumberyard.

Immediately following Operation Mountain Lion, ANA soldiers hosted a six-day medical civic assistance program at FOB Lumberyard where they provided more than 6,000 Afghans with medical care. In addition to immediate medical care, the Afghans received hygiene classes and left the FOB with tarps, blankets, metal stoves, grain, beans, rice, cooking oil, tea, sugar and backpacks for children.

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