Photo Information

Northern Marjah elders meet during a shura held at Combat Outpost Coutu, Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 5, 2010. Elders met with Marines and Afghan police to discuss recent security issues of concern. The Marines and Afghan National Police pushed forward with the shura, despite a less than expected turnout, to discuss security concerns throughout northern Marjah.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Megan Sindelar

Marines continue local engagement efforts despite Taliban intimidation in northern Marjah

13 Jul 2010 | Sgt. Heidi Agostini

Despite a lower turnout than expected, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, along with members of the Afghan National Police hosted an elders shura in northern Marjah, July 5, to discuss security concerns throughout the area.

The Taliban’s intimidation campaign against their own countrymen, including a murder of one of the area’s influential elders in northern Marjah, dissuaded many local residents from attending the shura.

The village elder was murdered by the Taliban on his way to the shura. The elder’s devotion to a more secure Marjah was recognized by Lt. Col. Brian Christmas, commanding officer, 3/6.

“We lost a leader last night,” Christmas said. “He stood up against the Taliban for his people.”

In other outreach efforts throughout northern Marjah, three Afghan women stepped forward to improve their quality of health, by participating in a women’s medical enhancement clinic hosted by the Marine female engagement team with 3/6, July 6-7. The FET Marines also experienced a lower turnout than expected, but will continue to provide health care for women, as well as their children, at different locations throughout northern Marjah.

“I thought we would have more participation,” said Lance Cpl. Kathryn Mannion, FET, 3/6. “But when I heard about intimidation practices the Taliban were using, I thought otherwise.

“People just know in general that if the wrong person sees them coming here to the Marines, it can create problems for them,” she continued.

In this area of Marjah, the locals are more conservative. It may have been the reason as to why participation was low, said Capt. Natalie Kronschnabel, FET platoon commander, Regimental Combat Team 7.

Marines believe that reintegration efforts, combined with establishing stronger relationships with Afghan residents will give them the upper hand against the Taliban’s intimidation efforts.

“The local Taliban that are your sons and your brothers can be forgiven if they put down their weapons and rejoin the village,” said Christmas, during the shura. “I can’t push people through that door. Only you, the village elders and leaders can."