News: Afghan forces, ‘America’s Battalion’ Marines keep Garmsir safe during Afghan New Year
Story by Cpl. Reece Lodder
GARMSIR DISTRICT, Afghanistan — The celebration of the Afghan New Year was outlawed while Helmand province’s Garmsir district was under insurgent rule prior to the arrival of coalition forces in 2005.
The three-day celebration, known in Dari as ‘Nowruz’, highlights the transition from winter into spring — the “new day” said Dauod Parwani, the Regimental Combat Team 5 cultural adviser.
Since Nowruz’s cultural and religious significance was derived from the non-Islamic Zoroastrian religion and had no basis in the Islam or Pashtun culture, Parwani said insurgents banned the holiday in Garmsir.
Today, after seven years of struggles and progress made by Afghan National Security Forces and coalition troops, Garmsir is largely free of the insurgency.
Safe under the watch of Afghan forces and U.S. Marines with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, at vehicle checkpoints throughout the district, thousands of local residents flocked into Garmsir’s bazaars to celebrate the holiday here, March 19-21.
During Operation Gridlock, the partnered forces manned checkpoints to disrupt insurgent logistical movement along routes leading into the bazaars. Afghan forces halted and searched vehicles while Marines provided overwatch from the periphery and biometrically enrolled passersby.
Within the bazaars, streets and shops buzzed with activity as residents purchased new clothes and fresh fruits for parties, met with families for picnics and celebrated with traditional music.
“Since there was a larger flow of people coming into the bazaars, we were determined to search them all,” said Afghan National Police intelligence officer Lt. Col. Mohammad Akhlas. “The enemy can benefit from such an opportunity, so we wanted to prevent them from moving illegal goods or planting bombs.”
Though the checkpoints were a brief adjustment to local residents’ way of life, the lasting result outweighed the temporary inconvenience, said Capt. Lowell Krusinger, the 3/3 assistant operations officer.
“The greatest benefit is the local people are seeing that their own countrymen are able to provide them with security,” said Krusinger, a native of Gaithersburg, Md. “As the Afghan forces continue to build their relationship with the local populace, they become more legitimate in the eyes of the locals.”
The importance of this relationship increases in light of the nearing transfer of lead security responsibility from coalition to Afghan forces in Garmsir.
“We’ve had the support of the Marines in the past, but they won’t always be here,” Akhlas said. “Our forces need to be the frontline of security in Garmsir … they are our security for the future.”
While their expanding responsibility demands the continued growth and proficiency of Afghan forces in Garmsir, Akhlas said they are improving “step by step.” Though they face a daunting role once coalition forces depart, he said the district’s current, high level of security is telling for the future of Afghan forces.
“Today is the fourth day of our New Year and we still haven’t had any attacks, ambushes or explosions here,” Akhlas said. “The people of Garmsir are witnesses to the growth and success of our forces.”
Editor’s Note: Third Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5, 1st Marine Division (Forward), which works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces 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 the ANSF assumption of security responsibility within its operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.
This work, Afghan forces, ‘America’s Battalion’ Marines keep Garmsir safe during Afghan New Year, by Sgt Reece Lodder, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.