Afghan Border Police, Marine partnership furthers governance in southern Helman
US Marine Corps News
2/3/2012 By Cpl. Reece Lodder, Regimental Combat Team 5
BANADAR, Helmand province, Afghanistan — Situated in the southern portion of Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Garmsir district has historically been a highway for insurgent movement from Pakistan.
Though Garmsir is separated from the country’s northern border by only the sparsely populated Khan-Neshin district, it’s largely considered to border Pakistan with respect to human terrain.
In its open desert, an area with a history of tribal conflict, the growing Afghan Border Police force has deepened its roots and established governance through the mentorship of U.S. Marines from Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.
In existence for only eight years, the ABP is a younger and significantly smaller force than other branches of the Afghan security infrastructure. Nonetheless, its mission is vital as Afghan forces prepare to assume lead security responsibility in Garmsir.
“If the ABP didn’t exist, there would be holes all along Afghanistan’s southern border,” said Capt. Jason Armas, 33, the commanding officer of Weapons Co., 3/3, and a native of Rye, N.Y. “They’re the first line of defense from [insurgents] trying to launch an attack from Pakistan.”
While the ANA and ANP are committed to the local populace in heavily populated areas along the central Helmand River valley, the ABP are a mobile force ready to fill in where needed.
“We’re protecting our border but we’re also in the cities fighting against the Taliban,” said Pvt. Ghul Agha, a squad leader with 1st Tolai, 2nd Kandak, Helmand ABP. “We’re here to destroy them and force them out of Garmsir.”
Armas said the ABP members’ proficiency in both police and soldiering skills enables them to operate more independently from a higher command than their sister forces.
“They know their job as an officer of the law is to solve local crimes and bring rule of law to the people, but they also understand patrolling efforts and operations as a soldier,” Armas said.
U.S. Army Special Forces and British soldiers first mentored the ABP in Garmsir before Marines inherited the mission in 2008. The Weapons Marines’ current assignment is their first in-depth interaction with the ABP. During a 2010 deployment to Helmand’s Nawa district, which sits directly north of Garmsir, they worked extensively with the ANA.
Cpl. Sean Marion, a 23-year-old machine gunner with Combined Anti-Armor Team 2, Weapons Co., 3/3, said the partnership’s biggest challenge lies within cultural differences, and variances in organizational standards and training.
“We’ve come to teach them and we want to get right to the point, but we have to be patient,” said Marion, a native of Flagstaff, Ariz. “We need to slow down, find out how to best train them and then continually put forth the effort to do so.”
Over three years he’s spent working with Marines here, Sgt. Khan Jan, a patrolman with the 2nd Tolai, 2nd Kandak, Helmand ABP, said their mentorship has given him a deeper understanding of his job. It has enabled him to learn how to lead security patrols, process criminals, search houses and detect improvised explosive devices.
Jan said this experience, combined with knowledge he gained during four months of ABP discipline and medical training, has prepared him and his men to keep Garmsir secure.
“We won’t face a lot of new challenges when there are less Marines here,” Jan said. “We’re well-trained and ready to maintain Garmsir’s security.”
As a non-commissioned officer working on his home turf, he said one of the biggest challenges he faces is promoting honesty among his patrolmen. Many ABP work in the same communities they live in, and Jan believes police corruption — like taking bribes to ignore criminal activity — works against earning the people’s trust.
“If we’re dishonest to our people, we won’t be able to succeed in our mission of providing them security,” Jan said. “And we have to provide this security … Afghanistan is our country.”
As Garmsir’s ABP force grows in its ability to secure the area from insurgent activity, they’re also bringing governance to the district.
On Nov. 8, a member of the Andar tribe gunned down Obidullah Khan, an influential elder from the Nurzai tribe, as he returned to his residence from a shura with 3/3 Marines and local elders in nearby Sar Banadar.
The ABP stepped in before the tribal rift spun further out of control by quickly locating, arresting and processing Khan’s suspected murderer. The Andar tribesman has since been found guilty following trial in the Afghan legal system.
“The ABP has introduced governance and the local people have embraced it,” Armas said. “They’re helping the people to see they have to work through the government to solve problems between their tribes, and not take matters into their own hands.”
At Patrol Base Pay Banadar, 3/3’s southernmost position in Garmsir, Marion said ABP patrolmen recently raised Afghan flags around their work and living areas. He said this was the first time he’d seen them fly their national colors, and noted the act as a sign of deepening pride in their country and organization.
“I’m so proud to serve my country,” Agha said. “I go to my village in uniform, walk around with my rifle and my family and friends see I’m keeping them safe. They see I’m here to provide security for our people.”
Editor’s note: Third Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5, 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 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.
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