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Afghan security forces go it alone
Monday, April 22nd, 2013

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.”

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A young pomegranate tree surrounded by razor wire at an Afghan Police outpost on the Arghandab River in Zabul Province.

(Ben Brody - GlobalPost)
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En route to a meeting, American Spc. Joshua Marks of 1-41 Field Artillery scans for movement after shots rang out in the mountains.

(Ben Brody - GlobalPost)
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Afghan police officers in Arghandab District stand amid the wreckage of three police trucks that were destroyed by IEDs, killing several of their colleagues.

(Ben Brody - GlobalPost)
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Outside a meeting of Afghan police and village elders, a US soldier stands guard.

(Ben Brody - GlobalPost)
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Village elders meet with Col. Jalani Khan, the deputy police chief of Zabul, and other police officials in Arghandab District, Zabul Province.

(Ben Brody - GlobalPost)
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Col. Jalani Khan (right), the Zabul Province deputy police chief, jokes with Afghan National Police officers during a visit to their remote outpost in mountainous Arghandab District. To his left is Lt. Col. Ali Rahiman, the recently installed Arghandab District police chief.

(Ben Brody - GlobalPost)
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After the meeting, Afghan police officers half-jokingly attempt to catch fish with grenades in the Arghandab River in Zabul Province. After the explosion, they scrambled down to the shore, but no fish floated past.

(Ben Brody - GlobalPost)
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For American troops, building strong relationships with their Afghan counterparts is a crucial measure in preventing insider attacks.

(Ben Brody - GlobalPost)
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Col. Khan stands at the head of a formation of top Zabul security officials in Qalat.

(Ben Brody - GlobalPost)
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Above a formation of Afghan National Police at Qalat Provincial Headquarters, an American remote-operated machine gun silently scans the area.

(Ben Brody - GlobalPost)
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Khan waits outside his cafeteria for a delegation from Kandahar.

(Ben Brody - GlobalPost)
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Khan looks over the paperwork accompanying two detainees who were caught with weapons during a raid in Zabul.

(Ben Brody - GlobalPost)
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