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    Afghan Uniformed Police, Marine partnership makes progress in Musa Qal’eh



    Story by Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde  

    II Marine Expeditionary Force   

    PATROL BASE MEHRAJ, Helmand province, Afghanistan – Afghan Uniformed Police patrolmen and Marines from 3rd Platoon, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, have been conducting partnered patrols in Musa Qal’eh district, Helmand province, in recent weeks to show a strong, partnered presence in the platoon’s area of responsibility.

    Part of the Marines’ mission is to mentor Afghan National Security Forces, including the AUP, to ensure they can operate independently in the future.

    “(Afghan forces are) going to need to know not only the inner workings of how to maintain government, but how to maintain local security,” said San Bernardino, Calif., native 1st Lt. Charlie Robert Cordova, the commanding officer of 3rd Platoon, Fox Company. “The security that Marines provide is obvious and direct, but without a presence of government, the (local residents) can’t believe in their government, and that’s what the AUP provides – a sense of stability in the government itself, not just security.”

    Marines are currently working with AUP and other ANSF elements throughout Helmand province and have been successful teaching their Afghan counterparts the necessary skills to be proficient patrolmen and soldiers.

    “The police, … they’re having mentors with them; their commanders are having mentors with them,” said Naimatullah Sameen, the governor of Musa Qal’eh district. “If they have mistakes or something happens, (the Marines) are trying to help them with their problems. In Musa Qal’eh district, the Marines have helped a lot.”

    Together, the AUP and Marines have engaged local residents of the area, gaining intelligence about a variety of topics, such as asking about the local insurgency, addressing any concerns of the Afghans, trying to recruit for the AUP, and discouraging poppy growth in the area, which funds insurgent activities.

    “I always take the senior (AUP patrolman) and keep him right with me so we can (both) interact with the people,” said Garland, Texas, native Sgt. Joshua Pearce, a squad leader with 3rd Platoon. “(We) ask them if they’ve seen any (insurgents) recently, if they’ve been threatened so we can get a broader spectrum (of their situation). We can track who’s been threatened so we can plan for future operations. Most of the stuff’s just been like census, feeling everybody out and trying to see if there’s anything we can do.”

    Having the AUP around also adds legitimacy to any rules the service members must enforce because the patrolmen are direct representatives of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, with the Marines simply on-hand to lend mentorship and support.

    “If we just go on all-Marine patrols, (local residents) think we’re the ones dictating the rules, and it’s hard to explain (for example) that they’re not allowed to grow poppy and then explain that it’s not my rule, it’s their government’s rule,” said Pearce, a graduate of Naaman Forest High School in Garland. “It shows them that we’re working hand-in-hand with their government.”

    Many of the AUP patrolmen stationed in Musa Qal’eh district are native to the areas they serve, said Cordova. Their knowledge of local culture helps decipher if local residents are acting suspicious in certain contexts that may not be obvious to the Marines.

    “The AUP, being from this area, are able to identify any outsiders,” said Cordova, a graduate of Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in history. “They are able to detect dialect, dress, actions, and then the local (residents) are able to speak to them more freely because they know them. They’re able to gain information that, ultimately, we can’t attain without them.”

    The strategy of directly engaging local residents is a change of pace from other recent operations in the area, when the Marines were covering large areas of terrain un-partnered. The coalition has narrowed its focus in the hope of encouraging Afghans to return to the bazaar near the patrol base, which had been abandoned, according to Cordova.

    “Our mission was to deter enemy freedom of movement and get intelligence of our area of operations,” said Pearce, 29. “We still have the responsibilities we had (before), but now more of a focus.”

    The partnered patrols have been successful early on, and the AUP and Marines are happy to work together, said Dunlap, Tenn., native Cpl. Kasey McDaniel, an assistant patrol leader with 3rd Platoon.

    “From what I’ve been seeing, most of the AUP are really happy to be working with us,” said McDaniel, 23. “It’s hard for us to communicate because of the language barrier, but … they show they want to communicate, (and) that means they want to be around us. They want to be here and do this with us, so it’s (been) a pretty good relationship with everybody.”

    The future looks bright for the AUP and Marine partnership in 3rd Platoon’s section of Musa Qal’eh. Cordova believes the partnership is already paying dividends, as the coalition is gaining the trust of the area’s residents, slowly, because of the AUP’s presence.

    “More people have taken to coming and speaking with us as opposed to being standoffish,” said Cordova. “I think us partnering with the AUP has (allowed) them to accept that sense of security.”

    Editor’s note: Second Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 8 in 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.



    Date Taken: 11.03.2011
    Date Posted: 11.03.2011 06:27
    Story ID: 79496

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