KHANASHIN, Afghanistan – From behind his wooden desk, Lt. Col. Rasoul held court for hours today, answering Marine questions about everything from his unit’s recent operations to insurgent activity in the region.
The short, bearded commander of the Afghan Border Police unit here meets with Marine Border Adviser Team 1 regularly near the village of Taghaz, discussing the way ahead as their partnership evolves. The advisers –- attached to 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines -– are gradually pulling back from assisting with day-to-day operations for the ABP battalion as the U.S. drawdown continues, and Rasoul knows it.
Photographer Colin Kelly and I sat with the Marine advisers in Rasoul’s office over hot chai tea. The topics included improving logistics (the septic tank is nearly full on the Afghan post) and continuing training (the Marines plan to teach more explosive ordnance disposal skills, for one).
Generally, the relationship seems warm and cooperative -– and very much at odds with this year’s rash of so-called green-on-blue deaths, in which Afghan troops turn on their NATO advisers. The larger concern here appears to be whether the ABP will be able to handle the logistics that goes with running a national police unit without U.S. assistance.
Asked about the relationship, Rasoul said through an interpreter that he stands shana ba shana — shoulder-to-shoulder — with the Marines. He doesn’t appear thrilled that they’ll be leaving.
The ABP headquarters itself hints at Afghanistan’s long-term aspirations. It cost about $1 million to build, Marines here said, and was funded through the Afghan Ministry of the Interior. It includes barracks space, a full kitchen, a detention center and other facilities.
The ABP also demonstrated some classic Afghan hospitality today. In addition to offering us tea, they invited us to stay for a lunch that included chicken, rice, apples and fresh flatbread.