In the Arena

The Pir Mohammed School Reopens

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A little over a year ago, I visited the town of Senjaray in Kandahar Province and reported on the remarkable, but seemingly futile, efforts of an U.S. rifle company from the 4th Infantry Division, led by Captain Jeremiah Ellis, to reopen a school that had been closed and booby-trapped by the Taliban. I’ve been following the progress of the efforts to open the Pir Mohammed School ever since.

I returned to Senjaray last December and found that troops from the 101st Airborne Division, led by Captain Nicholas Stout, had had a rough fighting season in Senjaray, but ultimately had driven the Taliban from the surrounding area–the Arghandaub River valley, which is a crucial strategic pathway into the city of Kandahar. There wasn’t much talk of reopening the school in December; it was being used as an Afghan National Army fort.

A few days ago, I received the news that the Pir Mohammed School had finally been opened. Brigadier General Kenneth H. Dahl of the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division also sent some photos of the opening, which are below. The battle for Senjaray isn’t over. The Afghan fighting season is about to resume and schools like Pir Mohammed would seem obvious targets for terror attacks. Indeed, we’ll find out in the next few months if the excellent progress made last year in Kandahar Province can be sustained. But right now, I’m celebrating this wonderful moment–and saluting the courage of the U.S., Canadian and Afghan troops who shed blood to reopen this school, to say nothing of the courage of the teachers and students who’ll now be using it.

Zharay District Governor Niyaz Mohammed Sarhadi delivers a speech commemorating the opening of the school.

New students cheer the opening of the school.

The local Afghan National Army platoon leader, Lieutenant Ghafar, listens to the District Governor’s opening comments.

Students receive backpacks and supplies.

Pir Mohammed’s headmaster and an Afghan National Army commander cut a section of ribbon.