British forces hail concert by 'Afghan Elvis'

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The Independent Online

A concert by "the Afghan Elvis" was today hailed by British forces as proof of improving security in Afghanistan.

In one of the biggest musical events ever to take place in the country, pop star Farhad Darya performed last night in Lashkar Gah, in Helmand province.

About 5,000 Afghans were at the Karzai Stadium to watch Darya, who was born in Kabul and now lives in the United States and is considered a major celebrity across the Middle East.

Tickets were distributed free by the government and president Hamid Karzai was scheduled to attend the event but was called away to the Nato summit in Lisbon.

A spokesman for British forces in Helmand said the concert "would never have taken place under the regime of the music-hating Taliban".

Security for the event was handled by the Afghan National Police (ANP), with the only British presence a small number of senior officers who watched the concert as guests.

Lieutenant Colonel Dougie Graham, commander of British forces in Lashkar Gah, said: "This event is a glimpse of things to come in this area of Afghanistan.

"The ANP are taking on full responsibility for security and doing a great job of it.

"The fact that this event went as planned is further proof that the security situation in Lashkar Gah is better than ever.

"If ever proof was needed that things are improving in Afghanistan then this is it."

Colonel Kamullahdin Shizri, the police chief in the city, said the concert was a "huge event for Lashkar Gah and all of Helmand".

He said: "The fact that such a big star considers the city safe enough to hold a concert here is proof that the police are performing well and continuing to provide security for the people.

"We hope that more famous stars will visit soon."

Darya said: "I really enjoyed coming to Lashkar Gah - it is such a great place.

"I hope to come back here in the future to perform more concerts."