Jalalabad is a strategic city located on the main route between the Afghan capital Kabul and the Pakistani city of Peshawar. The area was a stronghold of the Taliban, and al Qaeda maintained a large presence in the area.
Gulbaddin Hekmatyar leads the Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan, a fundamentalist faction of the mujahideen. In the early 1990s, Hekmatyar served as prime minister of Afghanistan. He was the man most responsible for the fighting that left Kabul in ruins.
Heavy fighting broke out in August 1992 in Kabul between forces loyal to President Rabbani and rival factions, particularly those who supported Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami. After Rabbani convened a highly controversial council to extend his tenure in December 1992, fighting in the capital flared up in January and February 1993. The Islamabad accord, signed in March 1993, which appointed Hekmatyar as Prime Minister, failed to have a lasting effect. A follow-up agreement, the Jalalabad accord, called for the militias to be disarmed but was never fully implemented. Through 1993, Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami forces, allied with the Shi'a Hezb-i-Wahdat militia, clashed intermittently with Rabbani and Masood's Jamiat forces.
Al Qaeda and Taliban troops lost ground continuously since they abandoned the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif 09 November 2001. The capital city of Kabul was in opposition forces' hands, as was Kunduz, which went over to the opposition. US and coalition forces were after Al Qaeda and Taliban forces concentrated near the cities of Kandahar and Jalalabad. About 110 US and coalition strike aircraft flew missions 29 November 2001 and focused on targets near Kandahar and on cave and tunnel complexes near Jalalabad.
Anti-coalition forces have launched uncoordinated attacks against coalition forces in the area. These mostly consist of rocket attacks, bobby traps and planting mines. CJTF 180 officials attributed much of the unrest to a group headed by Gulbaddin Hekmatyar. News reports said that Hekmatyar has formed an anti-coalition alliance with Taliban leader Muhammad Omar and the remnants of the al Qaeda group in the country.
The 12-person Army civil affairs team that had the initial responsibility to help reconstruct the Afghan city of Jalalabad, and was ready to return home by July 2003. Elements of the 360th Civil Affairs Battalion spent more than eight months in the city of 300,000. Members from the 360th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne), Fort Jackson, SC, arrived in Jalalabad in December 2002 and divided into a six-member Civil-Military Operations Center team and a six-member Civil Affairs Team-A.
The team worked side by side with various groups, non-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies. The PRT's relationship with these organizations on a daily basis was to coordinate to prevent duplication of effort in the province. The team worked closely with provincial military commanders, as well, to provide them with information for security decisions to avoid political ramifications that could lead to an international incident.
The Afghans got used to them after a month. The doors were finally open and the Afghans began to view the team differently. They were finally accepted into meetings and were able to coordinate construction on schools, wells, bridges and government buildings.
One in five shops was open in December. By mid-2003 every shop was open - some even for 24 hours a day. It is now a secure environment.
With a little bit of luck and a landmine detour, the Combined Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force team based in Jalalabad found a good home for the future Provincial Reconstruction Team site in the eastern Afghan province of Nagarhar. Work for the first proposed Jalalabad PRT site began in early October 2003 and had been scheduled to begin receiving civil assistance personnel in December. But the team hit a major roadblock when landmines were found on the premises. Because of the landmines the task force team members had to find a new site -- and quickly. That's when they discovered a rundown, decades-old hotel inside an Afghan Ministry of Defense compound in Jalalabad. The hotel had been neglected for years and was a former vacation spot for Russian soldiers. But his find couldn't have presented a better opportunity.
When the Jalalabad PRT was finished, it was able to accommodate more than 100 team members. With the civil affairs soldiers is a force-protection element of Marines, and a staff of cooks, mechanics, supply specialists and other support personnel. Other U.S. agencies play important roles with the teams. The Agency for International Development, the State Department and the Department of Agriculture work in them. Afghan government agencies - such as the interior and agriculture ministries - also work with the teams. Not in the PRT, but affiliated with it, are U.S. Army Special Forces personnel. These bearded soldiers have moved into the area to provide protection for the people of the city as the election drew nearer.
The mission of the PRT in "J-Bad," as the Soldiers and Marines assigned here call it, was to support the voter registration drive and prepare for presidential elections in October 2004.
Also around the team, but not part of it, are members of the Afghan National Army. Companies of Afghan soldiers provide force protection for the civil affairs specialists as they go through the countryside assessing projects and speaking with leaders in various cities and towns.
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