CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- The Marines of the Afghan National Police Advisor Team returned to Camp Leatherneck from Lashkar Gah, Helmand province, Afghanistan, June 27.
The ANPAT, an advising team made up of approximately 20 Marines from all over the Marine Corps force including the reserves, spent eight months advising the Afghan National Police in order to develop a strong, capable and credible police force for Helmand province.
“Our mission has been to assist in the institutional development of the Afghan National Police in Helmand province to increase their capability and capacity in providing security and upholding the rule of law for the population in Helmand,” said Maj. Mark Nicholson, the administration advisor for the ANPAT.
The ANP have grown in many ways since the beginning of the advising mission in Afghanistan five years ago.
“We are more capable and stronger than before,” said Maj. Gen. Baqazoi, Helmand provincial chief of police. “Police are holding checkpoints across Helmand province with coordination from Afghan National Police. Police are able to perform and defeat. Our police have learned to stay on alert and react to any surprises, track suspicious movement and objects.”
While growing the police force throughout Helmand province to approximately 11,500 police officers, the ANP and their advisors have overcome challenges together, building stronger relationships.
“The biggest challenge has been in understanding that the police here have very different outlooks than we have as Marines,” said Nicholson, a native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “It is challenging as a Marine because we want to see quick, measurable results. However, many of our efforts will not be fully realized for years.”
“We overcame many of the obstacles by establishing close relationships built on mutual trust and confidence in one another,” said Capt. Frank Alba Jr., the senior intelligence advisor for the ANPAT. “Later on this proved beneficial and enabled us to have honest and productive discussions on how to implement procedures and processes that would facilitate long-term sustainability.”
As the current ANPAT members focus more on supporting and guiding the ANP, the advisors feel the police are in a good place, ready and capable of sustaining their force and standards of law enforcement.
“I’m very confident in the ANP on many levels,” said Alba, a native of Austin, Texas. “They’ve largely been sustaining security and success in Helmand on their own for some time now. They proved this during the elections and then during the runoff. They will face additional challenges. That’s just the nature of the situation whether it’s organizational culture, corruption, the insurgency or some other internal strife. However, the ANP leadership has the tools, and they will be successful if they choose to be.”
The Lashkar Gah Training Center has played a crucial role in the success of the ANP in Helmand and Nimroz provinces, training more than 7,000 Afghan police forces.
“Anything from a basic patrol officer to a (noncommissioned officer) leadership course to officer training for the patrolmen, they are making sure that at each level the training is happening, and that they are graduating the number of recruits that they need to, to fulfill the needs throughout the entire province,” said Capt. Eric Gutierrez, headquarters officer-in-charge, ANPAT, and a native of Detroit. “The LTC as a whole has been building the stepping-stones, and now they’re at a point where they’re self-sufficient. The British lifted off of there several months ago, and even our follow-up checks, we’ve been looking at them and they’ve remained the proficient force and trainers that they need to be to be able to keep up with the long-term success.”
There are currently 11,500 Afghans serving the ANP in Helmand and Nimroz provinces. This number is spread amongst the three main pillars of the ANP: the Afghan Uniform Police, the Afghan Border Police and the Afghan Civil Order Police. These forces will continue to be advised and supported by advisors with Regional Command (Southwest) aboard Camp Leatherneck.
“We have seen tremendous changes in Helmand with regards to the development of the police forces,” said Helmand Governor Naeem Baloch. “The police are now capable of taking on the insurgents face-to-face.”