NAWA, Afghanistan -- Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III visited Forward Operating Base Jaker and the surrounding area in Nawa, Afghanistan, to note progress by the Nawa Government and coalition forces in the region, Oct. 28.
Lynn recently approved the construction of a paved road running from Lashkar Gah, through Nawa, to Garmsir.
Lynn, along with Helmand Provincial Governor Mohammad Gulab Mangal and Brig. Gens. Joseph Osterman and Larry Nicholson, the commanding general of 1st Marine Division and the senior military assistant to the deputy secretary of defense, met with the Nawa governor, council members and tribal elders while touring Khalaj High School, the Nawa District Bazaar and Governor’s Center.
Lynn thanked Nawa government officials and tribal elders for the support they’ve shown the Marines in the area, calling "Nawa a success story" thanks to their assistance.
"Nawa has a very good reputation amongst the other districts," said Lt. Col. Jeffrey C. Holt, the commanding officer of 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. "The honorable Mr. Lynn was able to get a better understanding of the area [that], I believe, the president and Gen. [David] Petraeus call the closest to transition in Afghanistan."
Lynn also awarded the Purple Heart Medal to Lance Cpl. Jackson Hsieh, a dog handler with Kilo Company, 3/3, who sustained injuries from an improvised explosive device blast, and answered questions from Marines with 3/3. The Marines, who’ve been responsible for operations in Nawa ever since replacing their sister battalion, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, nearly five months ago, asked Lynn about terrorist operations in Pakistan and Africa, as well as the planned withdrawal of troops beginning next year. Lynn told the Marines the approaching drawdown date wasn’t an upcoming cliff to be driven off of suddenly, but a gradual decline.
"The scheduled phase out is partly a symbol to the Afghan government to step up and also a symbol to the American people that here is a goal in Afghanistan and this isn’t an open-ended commitment," Lynn said.
The deputy secretary of defense’s visit was brief but eventful, and the Nawa tour is something to which 3/3 Marines have become more accustomed. The past months have been spotted with visits from military officials, international dignitaries and members of the press. Nawa has become the place to see.
"Nawa has a very good reputation along all four lines of operation: reconstruction, development, security, and the development of [Afghan National Security Forces]," Holt said. "It all seems to work here and it’s just gotten better over time. It creates a lot of attention when you see very low enemy activity and a very high rate of development. It shows that our return on investment in Afghanistan is working. We need that example to show that it’s worth investing in Afghanistan."