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Cpl. Aaron Rooks, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade
KHAN NESHIN, Afghanistan - 07.08.2009
The Afghan national flag was raised above Khan Neshin castle in the Rig District Center July 8 for the first time, signaling the arrival of Afghan governance in the southern reaches of Helmand province.
Khan Neshin and the areas south of the Helmand River have never experienced the sustained presence of coalition forces or Afghan national security forces, until now, seven days after the beginning of Operation Khanjar.
"The number one question we get from the people is, 'when are you leaving?'" said Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, commanding general of Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan. "The answer is we're not leaving until the transition for security is made to the provincial government, to include the Afghan forces."
Afghans from the local populace came to Khan Neshin shortly after the flag was raised, where they heard statements from Helmand Gov. Gulab Mangal and newly-appointed Rig District Gov. Massoud Jan. Dozens of locals then gathered around a large courtyard within the district center to sign up for voting in the upcoming national elections.
"Look at them," said Gen. Muhaidin, brigade commander, 3rd Afghan National Army Brigade, 205 Corps, gesturing toward the crowd. "Now they know that the government is here and they have security. [The Afghans] have hope, that's why they're here."