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News | Jan. 24, 2012

Marines, Afghan police work toward long-term stability during Operation Double Check

By Tommy Bellegarde Cpl., 2nd Marine Division

PATROL BASE 7171, Helmand province, Afghanistan (January 24, 2012) — Afghan National Security Force and Afghan National Police personnel are working with Marines and sailors from Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, to secure areas of southern Musa Qal’eh district, Helmand province, during Operation Double Check, which kicked off Jan. 3 when the Marines helicopter-inserted into the area.

The troops cleared areas of the district south of Patrol Base 7171, including Surkyan, Khwajadad and Mosulmani, which were safe havens for insurgents in recent years. Security posts for Afghan Uniformed Police personnel were constructed in these places during the first week of operations to ensure the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan could maintain long-term control of the area.

“Fox Company was responsible for disrupting enemy forces on the eastern side of [Musa Qal’eh’s dry riverbed],” said Midland, Texas, native Capt. Aaron Awtry, the commanding officer of Fox Company. “[During] the initial phase of the operation, … we dropped by helicopter assault and disrupted enemy targets, safe houses, cache sites and things like that to keep the enemy off balance, which allowed our engineering assets and the Afghan police to establish those posts.

“We’ve completed that phase and now we’re into the longer-term phase of the operation, [in] which we are down there operating with the Afghan Uniformed Police in support of their posts,” he added.

The AUP and Marines are working together during the operation, but the Afghans also operate independently by conducting all-AUP patrols and providing security over watch from their new posts.

“[The AUP] are the main effort,” said Awtry. “They were there with the Marines during the initial clear of those target locations; they were there to select the sites of where the posts were going to be built at; they were there to man the posts and help construct the posts and then to operate out of the posts and with the local populace.”

The Afghan government aims to gain support of the area’s residents through direct interaction with the people and showing that GIRoA is permanently invested in the area and can provide a better alternative to the brutality and oppression of an unchecked insurgency.

“The [insurgents] were very safe, and they were feeling safe here because the people were supporting them,” said Masoor, an AUP commander participating in the operation. “[Insurgents are] destroying; they [are] doing violence here… if we prove that we came here to help – we didn’t come here to destroy… we can make them sure that’s who we are.”

Double Check’s early objectives have been accomplished, and a GIRoA presence now exists for the first time in years in the district’s historically-troubled southern areas. The troops now plan to continue developing an operationally-independent Afghan National Police force to ensure success for the area’s long-term future.

“The final result desired and the thing that we are looking for is that the police are able to occupy and sustain themselves out of [those posts] and in doing so, provide security for the populace, and they’re able to do this on their own without the Marines’ support,” said Awtry. We’re going to support them initially, get them started, get them the confidence they need to operate out of there, and then let them complete the task themselves.”

Editor’s note: Second Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 6 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.