Story and photo by Lance Cpl. Daniel Wulz
FORWARD OPERATING BASE RAHIM, Afghanistan – On July 27 after a short patrol from Forward Operating Base Rahim, U.K. Royal Marines and soldiers with A Company, 3 Mercian, gathered at the local Afghan National Police station to observe the beginning of a new local defense force in Rahim Kalay, Helmand province.
The occasion was the graduation of the community’s first-ever unit of Afghan Local Police, who will help keep insurgents out of the area and provide police services to the village.
Prior to the graduation ceremony, a shura was held regarding the progress made in the area with the ALP, Afghan National Army and overall security. The district chief of police, the Helmand provincial ALP commander, the local ANA commander, and U.K. military leadership all spoke at the shura to Afghan and British troops about the positive strides made in recent months.
“Before the arrival of ISAF, the security situation here was not great,” said Maj. Ben M. Wilde commanding officer of A Company, 3 Mercian, and a native of Chester, England. “There were improvised explosive devices close in to our location. The people, ISAF and local business were being attacked and the people were afraid to work in their fields and afraid to engage with ISAF or any Afghan Security Forces.
“Now, we are sitting in a new police station, we are talking about plans for the construction of a bazaar, we have had discussions with the local elders and [leaders] about re-launching a new school, and all of this is because of the progress in security that has been made.”
During the graduation ceremony, 17 local Afghans were recognized for completing the three-week ALP basic training course, which began June 22.
“This is definitely going to help the villages within and around Rahim,” said Royal Military Police Cpl. Ian S. Borthwick, an ALP mentor with 243 Provost Company, 5th Regiment, and a native of West Linton, Scotland. “These Afghans are ideally suited to the mission of the ALP because they are locals.”
The ALP program in Rahim Kalay was initiated by the Afghan government in association with coalition forces, after the coalition had identified the need for an additional layer of security in the area.
According to ALP mentors, Rahim Kalay and its surrounding area support 30 ALP officers to enforce security and the order of Afghan law. With the addition of the 17 newly graduated officers, 13 more Afghans can now be trained to ensure security once they are recruited.
During the basic training course, the new ALP officers learned weapons usage and maintenance, patrolling, operation of vehicle checkpoints and searching vehicles, personnel and communications.
“All of the Afghans took to the skills quite well,” said Royal Military Police Lance Cpl. Stephen Winfield, an ALP mentor with 111 Provost Company, 1st Regiment. “Most of them are used to weapons and shooting, but they learned everything else very well also.”
After the ceremony, the mentors and U.K. soldiers returned to Forward Operating Base Rahim while the ALP took over their duties at the police station in Rahim Kalay.
For the mentors and U.K. soldiers, the mission of training local police will continue as local volunteers come forward to join the police force and counter insurgency efforts.
“There is a greater police presence now, which makes the community feel safe,” said Winfield, a native of Camborne, England. “The more people we get to help, the harder it will be for insurgents in the area, but we are completely reliant on volunteers to join the ALP. If volunteers come forward and the program continues, it will greatly benefit the future of Afghanistan. ”
Additional photos here.