- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 30, 2013

CAMP DWYER, Afghanistan — For Marines training and working with Afghan troops to help secure their war-torn country, danger is ever-present — even at bases operated by their Afghan counterparts.

Marines inside Afghan bases are instructed to keep their guns on the highest readiness condition, and are always accompanied by “guardian angels” — Marines who provide security for those interacting with Afghan troops.

Meanwhile, most Afghan troops are not allowed to carry weapons in their bases, except for security guards.

“There are about 800 Afghans here — 799 of those Afghans are awesome,” Marine Lt. Col. Philip Treglia, the officer in charge of advising the Afghan National Army’s 1st Brigade of the 215th Maiwand Corps, said at Camp Garmsir, an Afghan base near his Marines’ Camp Dwyer. “It’s that ‘one’ you have to worry about, and it’s not because of the Taliban. It’s because he got into an argument that morning.

“Always keep your head on a swivel.”

They’re called “green on blue” attacks — in which Afghan security forces turn their weapons on their coalition partners. At least six have occurred this year, down from 17 at this time last year.

As most coalition combat troops prepare to leave the country by the end of 2014, Afghan forces increasingly are taking the lead in providing for their country’s internal security.

Here in southwest Afghanistan, the Marines have killed, captured and run off so many insurgents that now there are only “low-level criminals” who work for the Taliban and about 70 hard-core Taliban in the immediate area, Col. Treglia said.

Afghan forces should be able to keep the Taliban from returning to the area because they are capable and in positions of power they do not want to give up, he said. In this vast desert area, Afghan troops can easily spot an outsider coming in or someone trying to plant a roadside bomb, and can resolve the situation themselves, he said.

“This is a big time [counterinsurgency] win,” Col. Treglia said.

Coalition officials expect the Taliban to try to mount a comeback in the southwest as U.S. troops withdraw, and Brig. Gen. Mohammad Shujaee, commander of the 1st Brigade, said insurgents are trying to gain back control of areas daily.

“Definitely the enemies are trying to gain control of the southwest area in some parts, but still they have the al Qaeda terrorists and some other Taliban and their sympathizers here,” Gen. Shujaee said. “But as you see, most of their leaders have been arrested, most of them have been disrupted, the [Afghan] forces, they are now capable, and they do not let them to disrupt security in the southwest region.”

Since the Taliban announced its spring offensive April 27, at least 19 coalition troops have been killed.

But Afghan forces are bearing the brunt of casualties — a few hundred every month, and that number is expected to climb during the fighting season, coalition officials say.

“The Taliban know it’s an important season,” said Marine Corps Lt. Col. Cliff Gilmore, a regional spokesman.

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