GARMSIR DISTRICT, Afghanistan – As long as there is daylight at Patrol Base Jaker, the feistiest merchants of Khalaj Bazaar stand outside the gate, ceaselessly advertising kabobs and energy drinks in their shrill, adolescent voices.
Turn your head toward them, and their volume and frequency increase. Start talking, and they’ve got you for about $8: the price of naan, a healthy hunk of chicken, stewed potatoes and a standard $2 tip.
Since the Marines set up camp in Khalaj, a village in Helmand province, the local economy has continued to expand. Already, the six-square-mile bazaar is home to approximately 4,000 Afghans, and it’s a venue of merchants from miles around, said Capt. Mike Regner, the commanding officer of Company G, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.
“Eighty square miles of people are putting their goods in the back of a truck and bringing it to Khalaj Bazaar,” said Regner.
Khalaj continues to grow. In fact, the Civil Affairs Group with 2nd Bn., 3rd Marines, are currently supervising construction of 70 new shops that stretch along a canal just outside Jaker’s main gate.
Regner said merchants from as far as Herat province, in western Afghanistan, visit the bazaar to purchase goods, such as produce, livestock, textiles, meat and poultry.
“Bazaar Friday” is the busiest day at Khalaj, according to the Marines. On Fridays, about 3,000 people set up shop in an open field behind the bazaar storefronts. There, merchants sell carpets from the back of station wagons, and butchers dangle freshly cut meat from their stands. One vendor sells soft pink and white, machine-swirled ice cream, delivered to happy patrons in pink-white twists. With laughing children darting between the booths, Bazaar Friday resembles a small-town fair in the United States.
Capt. John Pooler, the CAG team leader, said that progressively tighter security and continuing improvements to the local infrastructure have revved up the engine of the local economy.
Where prior CAGs occasionally had to push projects without much community involvement, the 2nd Bn., 3rd Marines, CAG is now responding to the community’s requests for assistance, Pooler said.
Pooler said that the community is becoming more aware of government programs, such as the Afghan Social Outreach Program, the District Development Plan and the Performance-Based Government Fund.
“I view my job as connecting the people to the government,” Pooler said.
The continued development of Afghan Uniformed Police has also helped the local economy. Of approximately 250 stationed in the bazaar and throughout the outlying area, 200 policemen work in close proximity to Patrol Base Jaker, where they benefit from Marine mentors, said Regner. Regner added that AUP Maj. Sayfullah Kahn, the new local police chief, has been an invaluable asset to coalition forces and is probably the best thing to happen to security in Nawa.
“The new police chief is a by-the-book, professional policeman,” said Regner, contrasting him with the old police chief who was relieved on multiple charges of corruption.
According to Pooler, the next step for the Khalaj economy is expansion into new industries.
Khalaj is an agrarian society, where the people’s livelihood comes primarily from livestock and produce – or peddling goods, such as the energy drinks local children sell to the Marines at Jaker.
Pooler said he is trying to help broaden the economic horizon through more educational opportunities, such as the adult literacy program and a vocational training center. Twelve students are currently enrolled in the literacy program, and the training center is still in the planning stages.
Khalaj also has a K-12 school with 43 teachers and approximately 2,500 enrolled students.
According to Pooler, the community’s continued success after the eventual departure of the Marines remains to be seen.
Until then, kabobs continue to sizzle outside the Jaker gate.
// By Cpl. Daniel Wetzel
As the battlefield settled and the medevac carried Cpl. Brad Fite to Germany, medical personnel didn’t think he would survive. The damage was so extensive, Fite had to be resuscitated three times before landing. “They [Read more...]
// By Cpl. Lisa Tourtelot
HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 2, the “Night Owls,” made history in May when they completed the first “hot hookups” between landing support Marines on the ground and a hovering Kaman [Read more...]
// By Cpl. Reece Lodder
America’s Battalion Completes Final Helmand Tour GARMSIR DISTRICT, Afghanistan — In the fall of 2004, the Marines and sailors of 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment began a challenging journey that took them to the Middle [Read more...]
// By Cpl. Reece Lodder
GARMSIR DISTRICT, Helmand province, Afghanistan - The heart of Garmsir district is safe. For the past five years, coalition forces have operated with Afghan National Security Forces to defeat the insurgency in the central Helmand River [Read more...]
// By Cpl. Reece Lodder
Pfcs. Greg Zecher and Nicholas Roberts, machine gunners with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, illuminate the night sky by firing tracer rounds from their weapons during Exercise Clear, Hold, Build 3 on Marine [Read more...]