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Photo by MC2 (AW) Jonathan David Chandler

Coalition, Afghan leaders share iftar meal at Camp Leatherneck

24 Aug 2011 | Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Chandler

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — Senior Afghan provincial and military officials from Helmand and Nimroz provinces attended an iftar dinner hosted by Maj. Gen. John A. Toolan, commanding general, Regional Command Southwest, to break their daily fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Aug. 20, at Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province.

The distinguished guests included Nimroz Provincial Gov. Abdul Karim Barahawi, Maj. Gen. Glenn Walters, commanding general, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), and Maj. Gen. Malouk, commander of the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps.

The event served as an opportunity for senior coalition leaders to meet with their Afghan counterparts in a relaxed, social setting, said Maj. Nathan Evans, the reintegration officer for Regional Command Southwest.

Iftar is the daily meal in which Muslims break the sunrise to sunset fast kept throughout Ramadan.

"It reflects the unity of the Muslims,” said Lt. Asif Balbale, a U.S. Navy Muslim chaplain visiting Regional Command Southwest. “Although we come from different nations, different ethnicities, we are united as Muslims.”

The event started out with Toolan, Barahawi and other senior Afghan and U.S. leaders socializing at the camp’s cultural center. Afterward the Muslims in attendance gathered for evening prayer given by Balbale. After the prayers, the coalition forces and Afghans sat down for the iftar meal.

The dinner served as a way for coalition forces to show partnership with their Afghan counterparts during this holy month for Muslims, said Balbale.

“It’s often people have the negative perception that we [U.S. Forces] are a destructive force and that is so not true,” said Balbale. “There are a lot of good things that we are doing. We are building mosques, we are building schools and we are helping the injured. This is the basic function of human beings. It’s taking care of humanity. And I’m very proud of our forces for doing that,”

The iftar meal began with a traditional serving of dates, bolani and rice, and was followed by other Afghan dishes. After the meal, the hosts offered a menu item unfamiliar to many of the Afghans.

“You have never had ice cream before?” Toolan asked Barahawi. “You need to try some.”

The two men laughed, and then enjoyed ice cream together while discussing security and current events.