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Sar Sekleigh Shura Building Opening

Barakzai tribal leaders cut the ceremonial ribbon at the opening of the Sar Sekleigh Shura building in Tarin Kot. The building was constructed in Tarin Kot with the help of the Australian led Provincial Reconstruction Team – Uruzgan (PRT-U).

In a compound belonging to Barakzai tribal leader Koshal, a shura building was erected with the help of the Australian led Provincial Reconstruction Team – Uruzgan (PRT-U).

The new meeting area, on the outskirts of Tarin Kot, was officially opened on 12 June by the local and provincial tribal elders and the project facilitators.

The Sar Sekleigh Shura building is one of the last PRT-U sponsored projects in the province and reflects the approach the PRT has taken to supporting cooperation and balance among and within the tribes of Uruzgan.

Funded by AusAID, the project began in January 2012 with most of the construction work done by the local community. Security for the opening was provided by the Other Government Agency Platoon from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment Task Group.

Fred Smith, Political Advisor PRT-U, said the shura building was constructed to help foster community unity by giving the tribe a place to meet.

“Balance amongst tribes has been important, but unity within tribes also matters,” Mr Smith said.

“We have noticed that where a local community is strong, the Taliban insurgents have no way in, which is natural enough as nobody wants them. They exploit weaknesses in communities to gain influence. Tribal complexity is part of the reality we’ve learned to work with here,” he said.

“As well as being the right thing to do, understanding tribal complexity has served us well in terms of security, including for Australian soldiers living and working in these areas. Security is very much about relationships - if they don't want you in their village, you'll know about it!” he added.

In his speech to the gathering, Mr Smith highlighted the achievements that have resulted from ISAF cooperation with the Barakzai and Ghulzai tribes in Uruzgan.

He cited in particular the completion of the Tarin Kot to Chora Road through the previously impenetrable Baluchi Valley, and the building of roads and schools in the Mirabad Valley, which as recently as 2009, had been a Taliban stronghold.

“None of these could have happened without cooperation with the tribal leaders in these areas,” he said.

“I attended a meeting in this same compound in March 2010. At the time Barakzai tribesmen were anxious that with the Dutch about to leave, ISAF would back away from its commitment to supporting tribal balance in the province,” Mr Smith said.

“I told them at the time that this would not happen. It was nice to be able to look them in the eye three years later and say we made good on our promise,” he concluded.

PRT-U, a joint civil-military unit, with contributors from a number of nations, has operated in Uruzgan since 2006.

Australia took over the civilian director leadership of the PRT-U from the Dutch in mid-2010 and will finish its mission by the end of 2013. 

The role of the PRT-U has been to enhance stability across the province, build the capacity of the local Uruzgan administration especially on delivery of essential services, and lay a foundation for further development by the government.

The civilian component of the PRT-U comprises Australians from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID).

The military component has been provided by the ADF, the US Navy and Army, and the Slovak Army.

PRT-U Director David Windsor said Afghans in rural areas faced a choice between supporting the government or accepting Taliban domination.

“The PRT supports the work done by our soldiers on the ground by helping build the Afghan Government into a viable provider and protector for communities,” he said.