December 13th, 2009
05:25 PM ET

A trip to Helmand, Day 2

Editor's note: CNN correspondent Atia Abawi is returning to the Khan Neshin district in Helmand province, six months after a trip there at the time of a major U.S. Marine-led operation to secure, hold and eventually build in areas of Helmand province that had been under the hands of the Taliban for many years. (Read the Day 1)

December 13, 2009, 12 p.m. in Khan Neshin, Afghanistan
Disclaimer:  Writing while shivering. I need better long johns.

Today started off by meeting the 26-year-old district governor, Massoud Rassouli.  He remembered me and was excited to have the media here. Rassouli has been in Khan Neshin since the Marines took it back from the Taliban in July and is a part of the Baluchi tribe, the same ethnicity of around 65 percent of the residents in this district.

The shy young guy I remembered from July is now a confident and well-spoken man who is treated like a president as he walks through the small bazaar in town.  The villagers greet him with smiles; many excited to see that he came back from a trip away because they are afraid he will eventually decide not to return to their primitive district - like so many others.

Rassouli arrived back from Lashkar Gah the night before.  With him, he brought his eighth doctor into town - all the ones before saw the condition of the mud-room clinic and decided to leave.  This time he brought a doctor and a midwife.  It will be interesting to see if they will last or go running like the ones before.

Kids play in the yard outside the district school.

Kids play in the yard outside the district school.

We also saw the district’s school.  Right now there are only boys attending but at least they are using the old school building. The structure had not been used as a school during the 30 years of war.  Prior to the Marines taking the town in July, the school was used to store poppies and drugs.

Habibullah, one of the teachers the district governor brought from Lashkar Gah, says that he hopes to teach the boys that a pen and paper is a more powerful weapon than an AK-47.

1 p.m.
Lunch time.  Consisted of a delightful MRE (meal ready to eat pouches).  I had the chicken dumplings, cameraman Scott Clotworthy had the chicken fajita and producer Russ Finn, the beef enchilada.  I have to say, it was not too bad, but I can see how having it for seven months can get tiresome.

3 p.m.
Went back to the district governor’s house to watch a soccer game.  The two teams were mixed with the U.S. military and the district governor’s cabinet.  It was fun to just see guys being guys together no matter their differences.  Even some of the CNN crew and the district governor got into the game.

The district governor joins the game.

The district governor joins the game.

6:30 p.m.
Rassouli invited us to dinner at his office; delicious rice, goat and salad. One of the main points Rassouli made during dinner conversation was that he believes that Afghanistan could be sorted out in a week if Pakistan would cease its meddling.  And he time and again praised the Americans and the Marines, stating that they have helped Afghanistan incredibly and he knows that they will never be able to pay them back for this help.  Rassouli also said that he is happy about the troop increase announced by President Barack Obama, stating it will lead to even more security and peace throughout the villages of Helmand province.

soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Curious Observer

    I'd say this counts as minimal progress. Beats going backwards.

    December 16, 2009 at 3:25 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jamil

    Thank You Ms. Atia Abawi for this beautiful report that reflects not only reality on the ground, but also allows Afghan voices heard around the globe. For instance, Mr. Rassouli's, who understands the root cause of Afghan nation's distress, Pakistan's meddling in Afghan affairs. I hope that the US and UK press the Pakistani government to do more so that the lives of US and NATO soldiers and as well as the lives of innocent Afghans are saved.

    December 14, 2009 at 11:36 pm | Report abuse |