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    2/8 Marines conduct counter insurgency operations in Lakari village

    PATROL BASE LAKARI, AFGHANISTAN

    10.13.2009

    Story by Cpl. Michael Curvin 

    2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade

    PATROL BASE LAKARI, Helmand province, Afghanistan — Winning Afghan trust has been the cornerstone of the success of Marines with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan as combat operations take them farther south into Helmand province.

    By establishing open lines of communication and security for the villagers in their current area of responsibility surrounding Patrol Base Lakari, established Oct. 2, the Marines receive information valuable to their efforts to defeat the local insurgents.

    "We're trying to defeat the enemy with unconventional means," said 1st Lt. Patrick M. Nevins, a platoon commander with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, MEB-Afghanistan. "We don't have to revert to our organic weapons in a COIN [counter insurgency] fight."

    The Marines understand that to win this conflict, the population must support them, according to Nevins. By working together with the civilians, the Marines have improved security in a highly volatile area with aid from the U.S. Army and Afghan national army.

    Taking the time to engage Afghan citizens and identify their concerns and issues contributes to efforts to gain the support of the local population.

    By addressing the population's problems, coalition forces here are preparing these people for independence from insurgent domination, according to Nevins.

    "This is their country," Nevins said. "Once we leave, they're going to be the ones responsible for continuing the work that we've done. They're the ones that have to live with the results. They have the greatest stake in what we do here."

    Speaking with village elders before moving through their villages has produced positive results in this region, giving Nevins and his Marines a communication advantage over the enemy.

    "I let them know that I'm here for them," Nevins said. "If there is anything they need then they can come talk to me. We're just working on building relationships and mutual trust."

    Nevins says geography plays a major role in counter insurgency operations throughout Helmand province. Villagers close to ISAF installations depend on the security these compounds offer and the communication they provide, whereas populations living farther away from coalition positions are not able to see what coalition forces are doing for them.

    As MEB-Afghanistan continues operations in southern Helmand province, more and more smiles greet Marines as they patrol through villages and surrounding areas. More often Nevins sees his Marines treated as friends by communities that once met them with suspicion.

    "They welcomed us with open arms," said Sgt. Anthony D. Matthews, a squad leader with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, MEB-Afghanistan when his squad made their way for Lakari village for just the second time since moving into the area. "Even though we didn't give out stuff last time, they we're all over us."

    Often Marines, weighted down with flaks, helmets and weapons, also carry brightly-colored stuffed animals and candy as the walk the village streets.

    "They love us," Matthews said. "When we start getting a bigger presence, they'll recognize that we're here for them."

    The patrols have also started to expose a shift in public opinion toward the Taliban and a new willingness by the Afghans to voice this shift.

    "They hate them just like we hate them," Matthews said. "It seems like they learned to live with them" and now they realize there is a better life available to them.

    The battle for popular support rages on here between coalition and insurgent forces. With each smiling face, the Marines rest a little easier. The more communication with villagers, the more information the Marines have to force Taliban fighters out of Lakari, Afghanistan.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 10.13.2009
    Date Posted: 10.13.2009 14:54
    Story ID: 40046
    Location: PATROL BASE LAKARI, AF

    Web Views: 1,142
    Downloads: 1,016

    PUBLIC DOMAIN