27 Mar 2007

PR# 2007-239

Small Rewards Program has positive effect in Laghman Province

JALALABAD AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Enemy hopes of building improvised explosive devices from caches in Laghman Province went up in flames as more than 430 pieces of ordnance were destroyed, March 23.

The rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, mines, artillery shells and other munitions were turned into the Mehtar Lam Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) over the last six weeks by Afghans under the PRT’s Small Rewards Program (SRP) Capt Joseph Lendo, the program’s coordinator explained.

"The program gives the Afghan people the opportunity to contribute to the safety of their country in several ways," said Lendo. "Through the SRP, Afghans can bring information that takes ISAF to caches, information, or receive payment for bringing in weapons or munitions.  People have responded quite well."

The program, which also netted approximately 2,500 rounds of small arms and large caliber ammunition, began February 8 in Mehtar Lam, as a continuation of a successful program in Ghazni.  "In the last year, Ghazni had 110 cache recoveries," said Capt Phillip Stasulli, an intelligence officer for ISAF’s Task Force Grey.  "The largest successes there were Afghans leading us to large caches hidden in river beds and other places."

The program has been at least partially credited with a dramatic decrease in improvised explosive device attacks in the area.  "The IED trend has, once the SRP started, shown a tremendous drop," said Lendo. "While it might not be the only factor, it is certainly a contributing factor."

The program is not just about handing over weapons, said Stasulli. "We also reward people who provide intelligence or valuable information," he noted.

Other noticeable trends include a rise in the people’s confidence and trust in their government, qualities reinforced and demonstrated by the amount of weapons turned in to the program.

"As people feel more secure with their government and their surroundings, they are more inclined to give up their weapons," Stasulli said.  "Whether they feel more secure or they are just taking advantage of the economics of the program, they are getting rid of munitions that are dangerous or sitting around in their backyards."

The fact that the materials were destroyed in a controlled blast instead of exploding in the form of weapons is good news, as are many of the program’s other consequences.

"That was a lot of stuff coming off the street that could be used against us," said Tech Sgt Stuart Wylie, the Explosive Ordinance Disposal expert who destroyed the cache.  "It makes sense," he added, "The more they turn in, the safer it is for the PRT to get out and do the projects that benefit the people of Afghanistan.  So not only are Afghans making money through the program, but they also get the benefits of having the PRT being able to work for their benefit."

The success of the program can be linked to the fact the SRP pays out benefits to so many parties.

"Those caches have been sitting around for 10 years waiting for an opportunity," said Stasulli.  "Now they realize that opportunity is here and they can just get the money for it instead of selling it to a shady character. I hope they feel good about that."

The program, having taken IED materials off the street and contributed to the local economy, has cleared the way for the PRT to further develop the area and gave the Afghans something to be proud of. It may be the ultimate model for killing several birds with one stone, said Wylie.

Contact Information ISAF Public Affairs Office
Tel: +93 (0)799 51 1155 - Mobile: 0093 (0) 799 55 8291 pressoffice@hq.isaf.nato.int - www.nato.int/isaf/