QALAT, Afghanistan — Beside the twisted remains of three Afghan police trucks destroyed by roadside bombs, a pomegranate tree too young to bear fruit grows through a tangle of razor wire.
The tree's home is a small Afghan National Police base within sight of a former American combat outpost in Arghandab District, Zabul Province, where pitched battles raged against the Taliban just last year.
In years past, the police base would have had easy access to American military resources and firepower. Not anymore. The base was transferred recently to the Afghan National Army, and the American role reduced to an advisory one.
US troops who are in a position to respond to attacks on Afghan forces say their current posture is laissez faire — Black Hawks will not, for example, be delivering US troops into battle on behalf of Afghan forces. Under very limited circumstances Afghan units may request assistance from American attack or medevac helicopters, otherwise, the Afghan forces are on their own this summer.
While conventional US forces no longer conduct proactive combat operations in Zabul's districts, soldiers like Maj. Jon Gutierrez, an American advisory team member from the Arizona National Guard's 1/158th Infantry, advise their counterparts in the Afghan police. Gutierrez is the operations officer for his unit, so he trains the Zabul police operations officers in planning and managing their missions.
“They understand we're leaving, that resources are dwindling and that we can't provide them with the resources that their previous advisory team did,” Gutierrez said. “That said, we've found that when they ask us to do a job they should be doing themselves and we say no, they tend to figure it out for themselves.”