Story by Cpl. Johnny Merkley, RCT-5,1st MarDiv
HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Afghan National Army soldiers with 1st Brigade, 215th Corps conducted a clearing operation here during Operation Tageer Shamal (Shifting Winds) Jan. 28-30.
Similar to a recent clearing operation conducted by the ANA in the Shorshorak area of Nawa, Afghan forces led and conducted the clear of Trek Nawa, a sparsely populated region between Marjah and Nawa districts, with assistance from coalition forces with 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment.
Pictured: Afghan National Army Col. Muhammad Sarwar, the 1st Brigade, 215th Corps executive officer, shares an afternoon meal with Trek Nawa elders during a shura here, Jan. 29. Sarwar urged the people to take ownership of their community, work with Afghan forces in their district to maintain security and help build southern Helmand into a prosperous region of Afghanistan. The shura coincided with a clearing operation conducted by Afghan National Army soldiers with 1st Brigade, 215th Corps as part of Operation Tageer Shamal (Shifting Winds) Jan. 28-30. Similar to a recent clearing operation conducted by the ANA in the Shorshorak area of Nawa, Afghan forces led and conducted the clear of Trek Nawa, a sparsely populated region between Marjah and Nawa districts, with assistance from coalition forces with 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment.
“The entire operation was planned with no help from the Marines,” said Lt. Col. Baron Harrison, the Regimental Combat 5 Brigade Advisor Team officer in charge. “The success of this operation shows the ANA understand what they’re doing and have confidence in their abilities.”
“The ANA demonstrated to the law-abiding inhabitants of Trek Nawa that their capability to protect them and root out insurgents has grown significantly,” said Harrison. “This serves to increase their confidence in the long-term and is a testament to the hard work and sacrifice Marines and Afghan soldiers have made over the last two years to get the ANA to this point.”
Following the first day of operations, Col. Mohammad Sarwar, the 1/215 executive officer, called a shura with local elders to inform the residents of Trek Nawa of the actions of his soldiers and other issues related to the security of the area.
“The shura allowed me to inform the people that through security we can bring change to our district,” added Sarwar.
Local elders attending the shura spoke about their troubles, highlighting for Sarwar the hardships their people face. Sarwar responded by urging the people to take ownership of their community, work with security forces in their district to maintain security and help build southern Helmand into a prosperous region of Afghanistan.
“The people here need to know that the Marines have come to help them and bring security to our country,” said Sarwar. “If the people do their part, we can begin to build schools, roads and have peace in Trek Nawa.”
Within the three days the ANA had completed their north to south clear of Trek Nawa, searching for weapons caches, IED making materials and signs of poppy cultivation. Poppy is a major source of funding for the insurgency in Helmand province and throughout all of Afghanistan. Sarwar reminded those attending the sure that Afghan forces are cracking down in Nawa on individuals who may be funding the enemy through poppy cultivation.
“I let the people know during the shura that we cannot tolerate the growing of poppy,” said Sarwar. “I told them it was illegal and the ANA will be looking for people who grow it.”
Throughout the operation, Marines and sailors with 2/6 remained in an over watch position, allowing the ANA to plan, coordinate and execute the mission independently. This shift to an advisory role by 2/6 is a common trend among coalition forces throughout southern Helmand province, as Afghan forces are now taking the lead in large scale counterinsurgency operations.
“I have been spreading the word to the local people about the purpose and objectives of the ANA,” said Sarwar. “We are their brothers … before the ANA there was nobody here who fought for them like we are now.”
Editor’s note: Second Battalion, 6th 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 Afghanistan 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.