Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Gunfire at dawn - FCO blog

Thus did our incoming Battle Group announce itself in Musa Qala. But don’t be alarmed, it was just the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers’ way of marking St George’s Day, and the "gunfire" was actually supplied by a drummer. Quite nice, though, to be woken up with cup of tea laced with rum (I’m all for tradition). Interestingly, this is the first lot of soldiers I’ve worked with here that are predominantly English, the previous two groups being Scottish and Nepalese. Then, in the evening we marked that other fine English tradition of having a curry, cooked for us by our Punjabi MoD police mentor.

Up the hill, the District Governor is back from his epic tour of Afghanistan and India and is keeping us busy with his demands. Having been mixing with the high-fliers in Kabul and Mumbai I think he might be finding the business of local government in Musa Qala a bit dull. But we’re receiving more and more Afghan governmental visitors here who are coming to deliver their services (and spend their money) under improved security conditions, so that should help focus the Governor’s mind. In particular, a visit by a commission spent a week here assessing whether we are in a fit state to receive the Afghan Social Outreach Programme. This programme will establish a community council that will bring different community representatives together to discuss and agree actions on security, justice and development. It means we’ll have a genuinely local and representative council in Musa Qala with some real powers and some real money to spend.

And I have just waved off the Deputy Provincial Governor plus some senior Afghan security officials, accompanied by the Deputy Head of the Civil-Military Mission to Helmand. The Deputy Governor expressed his satisfaction and appreciation of a far better security situation in Musa Qala than he’d expected. This was a much needed visit that reinforced the Afghan government’s commitment to this district. It also provided a reason for the Governor to serve up some top-notch Afghan food, including fresh rations, and giving us 24 hours off the dreaded spam.

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