COMBAT OUTPOST PASERLAY, Afghanistan — Once again, it’s time to get dirty.
Marine Corps Times arrived at this dusty outpost today, moving in on a convoy from nearby Forward Operating Base Geronimo. That capped a 12-hour period that also saw photographer Colin Kelly and I hop a helicopter to Geronimo from Camp Leatherneck, the Corps’ largest base here in Helmand province.
We’ve definitely moved to a place where things should be interesting. Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., is based here in Trek Nawa, a volatile rural section of Helmand nestled between Marjah and Nawa districts.
It often has been reported that Marjah and Nawa have grown peaceful in the last two years, after tough operations in 2010 pushed the Taliban away and left room for growth and development. That’s true, but the same can’t be said for Trek Nawa, said Capt. Glen Taylor, Weapons Company’s commander.
“It’s pretty much the last Taliban stronghold in the central Helmand River area for a variety of reasons,” Taylor said. “The Taliban gave a lot of these people land when they were in power, so they’re Taliban supporters.”
Unlike Marjah and Nawa, Trek Nawa is devoid of local government. Its people do their own thing, and grow plenty of opium-producing poppy during the spring, Marines said. Insurgents in the area are believed to come from Pakistan and neighboring provinces like Uruzgan.
We’ll be spending coming days with Weapons Company as they work with a relatively good tolay, or company, of soldiers with the Afghan National Army. It’s tasked with containing the Taliban in Trek Nawa, and pressing them here within its mud compounds, rolling fields and murky canals.
The ANA have the lead on security here, with Marines chipping in to provide support on operations they run, Taylor said. We’ll be observing how that works, and talking to many of the Marines involved. At some point we’ll get another shower, but it probably won’t be anytime soon.