News: Marjah residents take stand against insurgents, rebuild community
Story by Cpl. Jeff Drew
MARJAH, Helmand province, Afghanistan – Before Afghan and coalition forces began security operations here last year, the insurgency cast an oppressive shadow over the city’s residents. Few local citizens stood up to the insurgents for fear of kidnapping or death. Times were dark, but one family decided enough was enough and stood up for what was right, knowing full well the risks.
“The whole area supported the insurgency, but Mohammad Razul’s family stood up and said they wanted to live differently,” said Plymouth, Mich., native 1st Lt. Joseph Falvey, the Weapons Platoon commander for Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. “They were sick of the oppression and coercion. Even though there was no guarantee and it was going to take a lot of sacrifice, they were going to try and give the government a chance.”
Razul, a young, charismatic, local leader, and his family became victims of a desperate grasp for power by the insurgency for their actions. In August 2010, Razul, accompanied by his father, uncle and brother, sat upon the steps of a local mosque near their home. Three or four insurgents crept behind a nearby wall and sprayed gunfire at the mosque, aiming for the family. Razul and his uncle ran to their compound to get weapons and fight back, but upon retuning, the insurgents had fled and his father and brother lay lifeless on the steps of the mosque.
Since that day Afghan National Army soldiers, Afghan Local Police, and Afghan Uniformed Police have steadily increased the security in the city, aided and mentored by U.S. Marines.
“I have lost four brothers and 18 soldiers in the years of fighting between the insurgents and the Afghan government,” said Sgt. Ahmad Marjani, an AUP commander and local resident. “When the Afghan Army and the Americans came, a lot changed. We can patrol through the area and there are no (improvised explosive devices) and no ambushes, no insurgents. The security in Marjah is much better than it was one year ago.”
“It’s been gradual. At first Marines led the patrols; now we are where we wanted to be all along, where ANA are leading patrols and Marines are advising and mentoring,” added Falvey. “Soon we will be able to transition completely where the Afghan National Security Forces provide security without the aid of the Marines.”
Razul has taken on the responsibilities his father and brother left behind. He has been working closely with local government officials and security forces to improve security and show the Afghan people that if they stand up to the insurgency, they will have support from the ANA, police and Afghan government.
A weekly radio broadcast titled “Line of Marjah” recently featured Razul on air as a prominent member of ANSF who is making a difference in his community. After the broadcast, Razul said his friends and family who heard the show were impressed. They told him he is showing the people the progress that can be made by working with the government and that there are a lot of opportunities for those who are ready to take back their community from the insurgency.
Razul, with the help of the Afghan government and Marines, has been able to refurbish the once-desecrated mosque. One year to the day after the deadly attack, he invited members of local security forces, Marines and sailors with Kilo Company, and district governor Abdul Mutalib to a feast at his compound to celebrate the mosque’s reopening and honor the deaths of his father and brother. Razul held the dinner at sundown in observance of the ritual fasting of Ramadan. Children placed lavish dishes of meat, rice and bread before those seated and prominent local military leaders gave speeches to the gathered guests. The feast ended as the sun’s pink and orange hues dropped below the horizon, but the strength and courage of Razul’s family continued to resonate through the assembled visitors.
“Exactly one year later, their deaths are commemorated,” said Falvey. The message is: the insurgency destroys, the insurgency desecrates, but together with the (local residents), the government has rebuilt the mosque and the government is here to stay.”
Editor’s note: Third Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5, 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.