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Chairman Meets With Kandahar Leaders

Jim Garamone - American Forces Press Service

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, March 30, 2010 - Navy Adm. Mike Mullen attended a meeting of community leaders in the governor's palace here today a building that used to be the headquarters for Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had a full day of meetings with Afghan and coalition leaders.

The meeting called a "shura" -- is the way Afghans get things done, said Frank Ruggiero, the senior civilian official at Regional Command South. It is the traditional way that Afghans discuss and argue and negotiate on matters affecting their community. Shuras are held at all levels of society, from small villages to nationwide.

The Kandahar shura was hosted by provincial Gov. Tooryalai Wesa and included district governors and sub-district leaders, as well as representatives of the tribes and elders held in respect throughout the province. The subject of the discussion was the way forward in Kandahar.

All in the shura recognized the problems created by corruption, but they disagreed on how to fight it. They also agreed on the need for security, but disagreed on who would provide it or which tactics work. "It's a process," Ruggiero said. "It will take a while."

Earlier, Mullen stopped at Forward Operating Base Wilson and spoke to the soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry, out of Fort Carson, Colo. Defense leaders had to extend the unit's stay in Afghanistan for 10 days. The unit was supposed to leave at the end of May, but now won't leave until June.

"In particular, I wanted to be with you and talk about your extension," Mullen said. "There were rumors beginning in January, and now that has happened. We worked like crazy to see if we could avoid that extension." He explained to the soldiers that changes to the battle space west of Kandahar made the choice inevitable.

Mullen thanked the troops for their sacrifice and also thanked their families.

"You couldn't do what you are doing without your families, and we really appreciate that they are sacrificing, too," he said.

Mullen moved on to Kandahar, where he met with the soldiers of the 20th Engineer Battalion. The 20th was one of the units processing through the facility at Fort Hood, Texas, when the Nov. 5 shooting rampage took place. The chairman met with soldiers of the unit and then pinned medals on soldiers for their actions that day. He also re-enlisted three soldiers.

Also in Kandahar, the admiral met with Vermont National Guardsmen of the 89th Brigade Combat Team a unit he federalized earlier this year in Vermont.

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