Here’s the handoff.
Stryker soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment are taking on a little more territory this week. They’re moving into Combat Outpost Mizan, a base that shares walls with compounds for the Mizan district governor, the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police.
It’s a post that American forces believe is ripe to be turned over completely to Afghan control. The Afghan army here plans and carries out its own missions – including one last week clearing nearby villages – with relatively little help from Americans, and district governor Mohammed Zarif has been asking people to use markets and roads that were closed until recently because of Taliban intimidation and improvised explosives.
“You know the difference that has been made in Mizan in the past year,” outgoing Lt. Col. Jeff Stewart of the Alaska-based 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment said at a gathering of Mizan elders yesterday.
He made the rounds with the 1-14 Cav’s Lt. Col. Jim Dunivan, scoping out new Afghan army checkpoints along a road that connects this small community with the bigger province hub of Qalat city. They both deferred to the governor in front of community leaders, and presented Zarif with a couple gifts. Each gave him his favored National Geographic wildlife videos, such as one from the “World’s Deadliest” series.
Zarif thanked the American officers and gave them some of the last pomegranates he saved from last harvesting season.
“I know how hard it was to hold on to these,” Stewart told him.
Peter and I are going to spend a little more time here before sending home a more complete story on this neighborhood. Look for it later this week.