FORWARD OPERATING BASE ZEEBRUGGE, Afghanistan — Marines have been patrolling and fighting alongside Afghan Uniformed Police for several years, but in Kajaki the Marines are focused on a different fight: staying out of the way.
Marines and sailors with Police Advisor Team 4 have established relationships with the local AUP and are now in a strictly advisory role.
The team’s role no longer includes training, according to Sgt. Michael Ellis, a military policeman with the team. Instead, the Afghan government has taken the lead on training its police officers, to include advanced courses for noncommissioned officers and explosive hazards reductions.
“They know how to do everything, so we are moving from coaches and teachers to overseers. We say, ‘You know how to fish, let’s see you do it,’” Ellis said.
The team is designed to directly mimic the AUP’s infrastructure. Each Marine officer has an Afghan counterpart who works in the same field such as supply, logistics, or communications. The commanding and executive officers of the team reflect the jobs of the District Chief of Police and the Assistant DCOP.
“(We) are advising their key staff members in their functional areas to coordinate their efforts with their higher headquarters,” said 1st Lt. Chad Ernst, the fires officer and Joint Terminal Attack Controller with PAT-4. “We are trying to help them get the Afghan support they need in the correct format.”
In years past, the Marines would have told the Afghan leaders how to best solve a problem. The test, however, is no longer open book.
“When we advise them, the biggest thing we try to do is get them to come up with an Afghan solution to the problem,” said Ernst, a 25-year-old native of Minneapolis, Minn.
A few times a week, the team visits the Kajaki Police Headquarters and nearby Checkpoint Doblex.
“We just finished a joint operation, and they have shifted some personnel around,” said Ellis, a 30-year-old native of Orange County, Calif. “Doblex holds a tactical advantage because it is the only route (insurgents) use from Keneshe Wan to bring in money, ammunition, and supplies, so they have to search those vehicles.”
The AUP continue to improve in the Kajaki District, according to Ernst.
“The guys on the ground, the patrolmen, are great,” Ernst said. “They are trained, dedicated, and willing to do what is necessary to secure (Kajaki).”
The final step will be the AUP coordinating with local Afghan National Security Forces without the help of Marines, Ernst said.
“We want them to learn this is their district, so they should be coordinating with ANSF in the area,” Ernst said. “We want to show them the Afghan National Civil Order Police and the Afghan National Army, and say ‘They are doing it, you can too.’”