Marines in Afghanistan Not Waiting for Obama's Strategy

Also in residence, working and sleeping in bare-bones conditions alongside Marines and Afghan police, are representatives from the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, a tribal researcher, a contractor with U.S. AID, and a Marine Civil Affairs Group.

They have all been eagerly awaiting the district governor's arrival so that community projects can be prioritized and decisions on funding made. So far USAID has funded the digging of four wells and pipes to carry water through the bazaar that runs along Highway 1.

With the district governor emplaced there are great expectations that the remainder of local governance can be appointed and the Marines can move from establishing security to developing the building blocks of governance.

The new district governor, who brought a five man uniformed security team with him, said he hopes to bring in teachers, a new police chief and mayor, and a judge, but first he wants to establish security. In order to do that though he wants checkpoints throughout the town and lots of them. Checkpoints, of course, means having security forces available to man them 24 hours a day. That is a problem.

Afghan Police: We Want You

These Marines have started training a very young and inexperienced police force. Nineteen-year-old Holem Safi, who is just beginning to show the first signs of a moustache, says he's in charge of Delaram's 50 police officers.

Marines say on a daily basis they are lucky if just 35 police show up for work. The goal for the town is to have 60 working police officers. Given the low pay, about $200.00 a month, and a complete lack of respect for the police and a cultural aversion to becoming a cop, getting the best recruits is a challenge.

Even finding willing recruits is tough. Marines have considered holding a recruiting drive, but decided against the idea lest they risk public embarrassment by having no one showing up or, much worse, the gathering becoming a target for insurgents.

For now, leaving the recruiting of police in the hands of village elders who will forward candidates on to the Marines appears to be the best solution.

A new police training academy has been established at Camp Leatherneck, the sprawling Marine base south of here. The first class of 25 police graduates completed the course last week and another 50 plus police recruits will soon graduate. The plan is to find as many recruits as possible then send them, along with all the police currently on duty at Delaram, through the academy.

The elders in Delaram are happy that the Marines are here, but think the emphasis should be placed on beefing up their own security forces. Abdel Khalik is a tribal elder who commands great respect among his people and the Americans. He says his advice to President Obama would be to concentrate all his efforts on building up Afghan security forces. He trusts the Marines and believes they will need to stick around for about five years, but he breaks down the reality of what Afghanistan needs in simple numbers: "For every Marine America puts on the ground here, we could hire 500 Afghan security forces."

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