Wednesday, June 15, 2011

“It has to be brought down to small victories.”

The indispensable Michael Petrou, in Macleans magazine, on the Canadian Forces' legacy in Kandahar:

. . .Maj. Jean-Christian Marquis, who currently commands Crazy Company of the Van Doos’ battle group, says he didn’t have CIMIC at his disposal as an infantry commander during his last tour, in 2007. “It didn’t make sense. Everyone was hiding, and the only people we’d meet were insurgents.” Marquis now works out of Patrol Base Folad, near the Afghan village of Salavat. He says when he arrived in November, residents would throw rocks at his soldiers. The Taliban had murdered the village leader, or malik, three years earlier. Then his son, Musa Khalim, only 24 years old, returned to the village from Kandahar city and declared himself malik. He also said he would work with the Canadians.

“I promised myself I would make my village better,” Khalim says during an interview that takes place when a Canadian patrol stops to visit him at an Afghan police outpost near Salavat. “I talked to my family. I told them if I die on this job, one of my brothers should take over. The Canadians have a good attitude and they provide support projects for the people. I have been threatened so many times by the Taliban. I don’t care. I want to improve my village.” Khalim says about 10 per cent of the people in Salavat support the Taliban, some because they want to, and some because they are afraid to do otherwise.

In April, the Canadians opened a school in the village. It’s located in a compound that used to be a base for the Afghan National Army. The soldiers there agreed to leave after the Canadians built them an entire new camp elsewhere. The school’s principal is 22 years old. Instructors, teenagers themselves, come in from Kandahar city every morning to teach math, Pashtun culture, Islam, reading and writing. The Afghan Ministry of Education pays their salaries. The battle group’s CIMIC team funded jobs to repair the compound buildings. No students arrived the first day it opened. The next morning there were about 20. Now more than 200 regularly attend.

Today there are at least eight schools open in Panjwaii district. Last August, there was one. There are more than 30 schools open in neighbouring Dand district. Less than a year ago there were 15. . .

. . . that's proper journalism. Excellent work. Full points to Petrou for taking the time to actually discover and report facts, and then tell a good story, which is what proper journalism is all about.


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