By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
June 6, 2008 - The Marine battalion tasked with training Afghan police members focuses more on helping Afghan people prosper than on defeating the Taliban, a military official involved in the training effort said today. The mission of the 1st Marine Division's 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, is to train and mentor the Afghan National Police, which they consider "the center of gravity," Marine Corps Lt. Col. Richard D. Hall, the battalion's commander, said in a conference call with veterans service organization representatives.
"[The police trainers] are not so much just wanting to go out there and get rid of Taliban, but they want to improve the people's lives, just like anyone would their own communities," Hall said. "That's the way the Marines are looking at it: 'How can I make their lives better?'"
The battalion is stretched across some 250 miles of Afghan turf and currently is focused on bolstering eight districts, Hall said. He added that new recruits in these areas are quick to learn lessons bestowed by their trainers. In addition to the Marines, personnel from DynCorp International, a private U.S. military contractor, are providing the training.
The National Guard also contributes police trainers. Many Guardsmen serve in civilian life as members of law enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or the Drug Enforcement Agency.
The colonel said the national police represent Afghanistan's national government, extended to the local and district levels. This force often is local citizens' "first taste of government," he said.
The goal of these trainers, Hall said, is to convert four-man fire teams tasked with maintaining rule of law into 40-man constituencies, with the local populace playing a major role in the effort.
"Our aim is to teach them how to do things on their own," Hall said. "So by doing our best to turn over everything to them and teach them how to do things on their own, [we] try to set the conditions where they don't even want us here any more."
Hall said much of the training is focused on making the force more credible and more respected by local Afghans. The ultimate mission is to establish security, which often engenders prosperity. Likewise, prosperity can help solidify security gains, he added.
In addition to building security in the area, the battalion works alongside civil affairs personnel who are helping establish infrastructure.
"[Civil affairs teams] focus primarily on working with provincial and district leaders to plan and execute and put forth the projects that the people need," he said. "That may include wells, building schools, training doctors, and those types of things."
Hall said Afghan National Police members have been surprisingly cooperative in working alongside U.S. Marines. He attributes this close camaraderie to a common bond: They are both pragmatic, warrior-like cultures. "I think they've already got this natural affinity towards our personalities," Hall said of the Afghan trainees.
"We're really motivated about our mission over there," he continued. "I think that we're not only well-trained to do this mission, but even for the opening few weeks that we've been executing our mission, we've already achieved successes that went a little bit beyond our expectation."
Hall said the early and clear success of Afghan forces is encouraging for the Marine trainers.
"When you can see the results appear right before your very eyes in a very short period of time, you get that tangible result from your action and the immediate impact where you can visibly, physically see lives improve right before you," he said. "And that is really motivating."