Afghan forces are increasingly taking the lead when dealing with local security issues in central Helmand as the stabilisation phase of Operation Moshtarak around Nad 'Ali continues.
The Afghan Gendarmerie are deployed in several new communities, with an additional 100 officers expected soon.
And it was Afghan National Police (ANP) who immediately responded to a suicide improvised explosive device attack in Lashkar Gah that killed eight Afghans and wounded 16.
The attack took place outside the Transport Department and bus station. ANP officers co-ordinated medical support, cordoned off the scene, and gathered evidence as part of their investigation.
Despite this latest attack, the last 24 hours have seen fewer engagements with insurgents in the area where Operation MOSHTARAK has been taking place and District Governor Habibullah held a community shura in Nad 'Ali.
Supported by the district community council and Afghan National Security Forces, the shura afforded 450 people the opportunity to voice their concerns.
Signs of commercial growth continue. A market in northern Nad 'Ali opened for the first time in 18 months, selling goods and livestock to over 200 customers, and the new patrol base at Five Ways Junction is now operational.
An Afghan/International Security Assistance Force joint patrol discovered a weapons cache while searching an insurgent bunker in Nad 'Ali district yesterday. The cache consisted of three 107mm rockets, five rocket-propelled grenades, two anti-personnel charges, an artillery fuse and a hand grenade. The ordnance was destroyed.
Approximately 3,600 central Helmand residents have registered in the provincial capital as internally displaced persons, but residents are reportedly returning to cleared areas.
The NATO Senior Civilian Representative, Ambassador Mark Sedwill, meanwhile, has met the Afghan Minister of Education Farooq Wardak.
He applauded Afghan-led educational projects in support of Operation MOSHTARAK.
Minister Wardak and the Ministry of Education will play a key role in the upcoming civilian phase of Operation MOSHTARAK. The Ministry is prepared to initiate adult literacy programmes, repair damage and reopen closed schools in Nad 'Ali district.
The Ministry also plans to open a multi-sector vocational institute specialising in agriculture, and establish a branch of the teacher training institute in Marjah upon conclusion of the military phase of the operation.
Ambassador Sedwill expressed his full support for these plans and commended the Afghan leadership that has been demonstrated. He said:
"It is clear to me that the Afghan Government is committed to implement its civil assistance programmes for the people of central Helmand. Minister Wardak's efforts will help bring long term development to this region by providing people with new educational opportunities."
As the lead for the cluster of ministries focused on human resources development, Minister Wardak is responsible for ensuring the effectiveness of the Government's efforts in preparing the nation's talent for taking on the reconstruction and development of the country.
In representing the political leadership of the alliance in Afghanistan, Ambassador Sedwill is responsible for ensuring that NATO's civilian efforts are co-ordinated with military operations and that they promote an Afghan-led approach.