Sunday, February 28, 2010
Open for Business in Showal
By the end of February over half the bazaar in Showal is open for business, with more shops opening on a daily basis. This is a complete change of fortune. Prior to Operation Moshtarak the bazaar had been closed entirely, primarily due to the threat of IEDs.
Local Afghan people are being sent the message through shuras and the local radio station that stalls are stocked and that coalition forces are constantly patrolling the area. And word is getting out.
However, at a recent shura local people are still worried about the threat of IEDs along the village roads leading into Showal. The Afghan National Civil Order Police Commander at Showal, Colonel Abdul Mohammed said ““We are here to provide reassurance of security”.
Security patrols are 'de rigeur' in Showal, and for A Company, 1 Royal Welsh Regiment there is a keenness to ensure routes are clear and encourage people to use the market. The ANA play no small part in these patrols, with their numbers weighted at 60% of the patrol.
There is an abundance of shops and stalls open ranging from fresh produce to footballs. And certainly, the meat-seller was doing brisk business; not least amongst his customers were ANA soldiers. “The food here is good, and so very fresh” said Narjeev, the 2IC of the ANA company in Showal. To prove a point, members of the British forces were invited to dine, on a regular basis, with their Afghan hosts at supper time.
The opening of the bazaar has been welcomed by locals. A local elder who did not wish to be named said “We had to travel as far as Lashkar Gah for food, which could take up to 4 hours in a round trip”. Now his family have access again to the bazaar and he is very keen that people should able to shop locally.
Elders in the village are spreading the word that the locals should feel confident to shop at the bazaar but also feeding back to ISAF that they must continue to provide security. It is a message that is not lost on CO A Company, Major Sean Hackney.
“Our aim is to restore business as usual, pre-Taleban intimidation”. So on a security footing and commercial footing progress is definitely being made, with growth in the number of stallholders touting for business being more palpable on a daily basis.
Pictures: Squadron Leader Dee Taylor