KHAN NESHIN DISTRICT, AFGHANISTAN
KHAN NESHIN DISTRICT, Afghanistan – A patrol leader with the Afghan Uniformed Police said he’s made substantial progress building rapport with the locals during his three months of service in Khan Neshin district.
This is no small feat for a person from the opposite side of the country and one who speaks a different language than the population he protects.
He said there is one key element that takes him far when interacting with the people of Khan Neshin – respect.
“When we show them respect, they return to us with respect. After that, we have their attention, we have their cooperation and more importantly, we have their respect,” said Bismullah Khaliq, a patrol leader with the Khan Neshin AUP precinct.
During a foot patrol March 24 to Wali Jan, a village almost three miles away from the precinct headquarters, Khaliq made sure that members of his patrol were giving proper greetings to villagers along the way, and were polite to motorists they stopped and searched. It was an AUP-led patrol, with two Marines and a Navy corpsman attached to provide guidance and advice as needed.
“The closer you can get with the people of the community, they’ll see you as approachable, and the closer they’ll get with you,” said Khaliq through an Uzbek to English linguist.
He said it is difficult getting cooperation from the people in the southern Helmand area when the police walking through their villages are Uzbeks from northern Afghanistan. To further complicate the matter, the residents in this part of Khan Neshin are mostly Pashtuns. Though the Uzbek members of the AUP know only their native language and Dari, Khaliq still finds a way to relate.
When the patrol reached the village, he spoke to the elders, who at first seemed reluctant to speak to the leader of a six-man Uzbek outfit, with three American advisors in tow.
“I know we’re not from here. I know this is your village we’re entering, but we traveled this far to tell you that we are here for you,” Khaliq told the two village elders in Dari, a language the three Afghans in the conversation shared. “We are from this country too, so we are your sons; we are your brothers. We came a long way to sure you are well. We’d like to know if you have any problems here. That’s why we are here.”
Any feelings of anxiety were immediately relieved when the elders smiled and invited Khaliq to sit, lean his back against their mud hut and take a load off his feet. The elders also showed welcoming gestures to the rest of the patrol when they summoned their children to lead some of the police to the water pump to fill their water bottles.
“All it takes is some courtesy and professionalism to make friends with the people who live here,” said Mohammad Nasim, a policeman on Khaliq’s patrol. “They’ve all treated us well here. But, it can be worse - you treat them badly and they’ll easily be a part of the enemy.”
Staff Sgt. Alejandro Santiago, an assistant team leader with the Police Advisor Team, Delta Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, said cultural sensitivity is a small but important part of the training the AUP receive at the Khan Neshin precinct. He said Khaliq and his team of police didn’t really need that portion of the training – they were already on the same page.
“You can tell in the tone of their voice that they’re respectful and professional,” said Santiago, a native of San Francisco. “I never had to remind them of it.”
Khaliq and his men came to the Afghan police force on the same page. They are all from the same village in the northern part of the country. Most of them knew each other when they joined, and group by group, trickled down to the precinct in Khan Neshin for duty after graduating from the AUP academy in Kabul. Khaliq even works side-by-side with his younger brother.
Santiago said just like any other military force, it takes time and experience to gain rank in the AUP. While Khaliq has three months serving in the blue uniform, the respect he’s gained as the team’s patrol leader was garnered from his time with the Afghan National Army.
Khaliq served as a soldier for three years in northern Afghanistan. His older brother was part of the Afghan National Civil Order Police, who he said was a well-known leader with more than 500 policemen under his command. Tragically, he was killed during a firefight with insurgents.
His brother’s death is what motivated Khaliq and other men in his home village to join the Afghan police force.
“[Khaliq] has the respect of all his men here – and there’s never any question about it,” said Santiago. “Because of his leadership, these guys take a lot of pride in what they do.”
Khaliq said all he wants is what’s best for his country – and he wants it done in “the right way.”
The village elders in Wali Jan didn’t have any complaints for the police. As their meeting came to a close, the elders agreed to spread the word to more distant villages about what Khaliq and his men are here to do.
“If you have no problems, then we’re happy,” Khaliq told the elders.
The patrol then continued their three-mile trek back to the precinct headquarters. Bolstered by another positive interaction with the people of Khan Neshin, Khaliq and his team remain optimistic about operating independently in the future.
Editor’s Note: The 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion Police Advisor Team 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 responsibilities within its operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance. 1st LAR is based aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.
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This work, Afghan police show respect to villagers, receive cooperation in return, by GySgt Michael Cifuentes, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.