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Some ideas seem meant to be when things fall easily into place as local veterinarian Bob Fuselier is finding in his endeavor to create an Afghan Sister Village Project.
“This started late last year when I was watching a program on Afghanistan,” Fuselier told an audience assembled at Trinity of the Hill Episcopal Church Wednesday. They were there to hear about Fuselier’s project and to listen to Col. Jay Mitchell, USAF, discuss Afghanistan.
Fuselier explained how the program he watched last year highlighted the fact that the U.S. military comes into villages with offers to help but because the tours of duty last about 6-12 months, there’s no real continuity.
Fuselier described the people of Afghanistan as, “tremendous people with tremendous community and tremendous hospitality.”
He looked into the Los Alamos - SAROV Sister City Initiative and was able to enter into a fiscal sponsorship agreement that allows the new project to operate under its nonprofit status.
“We are grateful to the LASSCI board for allowing us this privilege and in particular to Paul White for his help in making the agreement possible,” Fuselier said. “We are open for others to become part of this project…We need people with talents in designing hardware systems capable of audio/visual communications in areas without power and without landline communications, those capable of Web site design and management, those fluent in Pashtun and Dari and those interested in education and international exchanges. We are also looking for people with organizational skills and a deep interest in our goals.”
Those goals include promoting a lasting peace between the people of Afghanistan and the United States.
Mitchell is working in Afghanistan and happened to be on leave in Northern New Mexico when Fuselier contacted Sen. Tom Udall’s office for information. Mitchell spoke Wednesday as a private citizen but brought with him experience as an adviser to the NATO operational military commanders for the last four years and is currently the Liaison Officer to General Stanley McChrystal and his staff.
He and his wife Lisa grew up in Santa Fe and he expressed being reminded often of his native state by the people and land of Afghanistan.
Mitchell’s presentation entitled “Afghanistan Today: How We Can Help” included his personal views of the roles that local citizens in the private sector can have in securing peace in Afghanistan.
He has spent 25 years in the intelligence service for the United States, serving around the world and in several war zones.
“I never felt homesick until I went to Afghanistan about three years ago,” Mitchell said “The terrain is so similar.”
He described the Afghanistan people as “very trusting, very open once you get to know them.”
“They are not Arab and have no desire to be Arab,” he said.
Mitchell brought with him to Wednesday’s talk a variety of rugs, pillows, and jewelry, much of which was given to him by Afghanistan people to show Americans during his trip home.
“These are people who are proud of their culture and extremely proud of their families,” he said.
Mitchell showed a video of Afghanistan terrain shot from the air and on the ground. He explained that the country is made up of 34 provinces and 399 districts – similar to American counties. The Afghanistan people want the war to stop, Mitchell said.
“They want the fighting to stop…a lot of it is out of pure ignorance…they don’t understand why we’re there and what we’re there to accomplish,” he said. “As they’re understanding why we’re there, they are turning in IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices).”
Part of Afghanistan will fracture during the next 10 years, he said, because there will be a reluctance to go to a centralized government. Eventually there will be a strong centralized government because the country will have gone through the third iteration of government within the next decade, he said, adding that its relationship with the U.S. will be the strongest among coalition members.
Mitchell said the Afghan people know who Jesus Christ is and that “he will return to judge the living and the dead.”
He advised audience members interested in joining the Afghan Sister Village Project effort to identify a village and reach out for a sustainable period. He suggested offering both quick earning opportunities as well as long term potentials, involve the young, be visible, be persistent and most of all be open and honest. He also advised the importance of respecting the elders and involving them in the effort.
Local residents who have joined in the effort include Fuselier’s wife Susie Fuselier, David Trujillo, Sam Gardner, Emily McGay, Dick Honsinger, Mike Wheeler, Stan and Joan Primak and Mike Fuselier. They want to foster understanding between the people of an Afghan village and the people of Los Alamos and northern New Mexico.
Modeled on the sister city projects that developed from President Eisenhower’s hope of connecting the citizens of the U.S. with those from other countries, this group has established the following four goals:
• Establish direct, personal communication between the people of Afghanistan and those of New Mexico;
• seek to recognize, understand and respect Afghan customs and ways of life;
• provide the means for our children to learn about Afghan children’s customs and ways of life; and
• offer our available talents and resources as needed and if requested.
For information e-mail info@asvproject or send a letter to Afghan Sister Village Project, P.O. Box 1542, Los Alamos, NM 87544.