CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- On the northern end of Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province, just outside of the perimeter, sits a shantytown by the name of “Soak City.” This hub of tents surrounding a gas station consists of several hundred Afghans who have moved there so they can sell various wares to Afghan contractors and civilians visiting Camp Leatherneck.
Daod Mohammad, the district governor of Washir, paid the community of merchants a visit Sept. 29 to tell them they will have to move to a new location farther north near Route 1. Camp Shorabak, headquarters of the Afghan National Army’s 3rd Brigade, 215th Corps, will be expanding its outer perimeter, which will require all of the transients to move to a new location.
In addition to moving the community, Mohammad started registering Afghan civilians and contractors so they can be taxed through the Afghan government and be entitled to government services.
Lt. Col. Brian O’Leary, commander of the New England based 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, accompanied Mohammad as he held shuras with numerous shopkeepers to discuss the move.
O’Leary, whose Marines provide security on and around Camp Leatherneck, was surprised at how favorably the idea was received.
“The reaction of the men at the meeting was that they don’t mind moving, they don’t mind paying taxes – just as long as security is provided for them,” said O’Leary, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y.
The move will also allow Mohammad to build a commercial hub near Route 1 that will include a government branch office, a police station and a school.