News: Building rapport in Lowy Kariz
Story by Sgt. Brendan Mackie
COMBAT OUTPOST LAKARAY, Afghanistan – Soldiers from Company C, 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, accompanied Afghan Border Police of Checkpoint 62 on a joint patrol through the streets of Lowy Kariz, May 31.
The mission began at the checkpoint with a meeting between 1st Lt. Dave Pensyl, platoon leader of 2nd Platoon, and Sadiqullah, the ABP checkpoint commander.
“We are grateful that you all come from a foreign country just to help us,” Sadiqullah said. “We are so happy that you are working with us and that you ask about our problems.”
Joint partnerships are an important way to build cohesion between the International Security Assistance Force and the Afghan National Security Forces. It is equally important to emulate this partnership to the local populous by conducting activities such as partnered patrols.
“What we want to do is more partnered stuff out here,” said Pensyl. “So when we come out it’s never going to be just the Americans coming through and just walking through the city by ourselves.”
The local ABP are subject matter experts, familiar with the local area, including information on tribal elders as well as the locations of any suspected areas of interest.
“Today, I’d like to walk through the city with you and some of your guys,” said Pensyl. “We have an idea of where we want to go, but with you walking with us, you’ll be able to show us around.”
Between the drinks of hot chai, Sadiqullah spoke about the assistance offered by Pensyl and his soldiers.
“I like that you guys come to me, because I’m so happy that you want to cooperate with us, and you want to work with us shoulder-to-shoulder,” said Sadiqullah. “But also, you want to work with us to defeat the enemy.”
Building rapport and inspiring trust with the locals are major steps in creating an environment where villagers feel comfortable enough to provide information to ISAF and ABP forces.
“We want the people to see that you guys are here to watch after them and keep them safe from the Taliban,” said Pensyl. “Having you guys take the lead on that is important, because the people need to see you doing that with us just helping out.”
With the location of Lowy Kariz so close to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, there have been many incidents and engagements between the Taliban and the ABP forces in the area.
“I have fought the Taliban twelve times,” stated Sadiqullah. “Ten of my men, they were killed by the Taliban. Five were killed during the day, and five men were killed in the early morning.”
Sadiqullah, seeing the value in a partnered patrol, formed up some of his men and was eager to lead Pensyl and his soldiers through the village.
“We moved into the town, and I pulled security directly on the road,” said Pfc. Johnny Arnold, an automatic rifleman with 2nd Platoon. “Little kids would come up to us and ask us for pens and stuff – shake our hands – they were just real nice to us, and I was offered some ice cream-type stuff.”
“We came in and the marketplace was pretty scarce,” said Spc. Justin Mullen, a combat medic with the unit. “Just mainly young kids, a few middle aged men, no women around. The kids were pretty needy.”
“These kids were so happy to even receive little things,” said Arnold. “Back home, I’m all about church and to come here and see their faces light up – over the smallest things – was pretty touching.”
Even though soldiers receive hours of language training, in the heat of the moment it is often difficult to remember the lessons learned in the classroom.
“A lot of them were just talking to me in their regular Pashtu language,” Arnold said. “I could not understand a word they were saying. All I could say was hello in Pashtu.”
Besides engaging the children, the patrol gave the ABP a chance for more interaction with the locals, which allows for a continued relationship growth between the two parties.
“They need to trust [the ABP] so they can report things, go to them when there are problems,” said Mullen. “They need to trust them because once we leave, that’s all they have.”
Although this was just one patrol out of the thousands conducted in Afghanistan, it boosted the confidence and morale in both the villagers and the local ABP.
“For now, when they see us in the village, they will say, there is the U.S. Army and ABP working together,” said Sadiqullah. “So instead of talking to the Taliban, the villagers will bring any problems to us, knowing that we will protect them.”