CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Five high-ranking officers of the Afghanistan security forces left California this weekend after spending three days observing military training and civilian law enforcement operations.
The officers observed training that takes place in a makeshift Afghan village known as the Infantry Immersion Trainer used to prep Marines for deployment to Helmand province. Built at a cost of $28.5 million, the village is crafted to replicate Now Zad, an Afghan farming village with plenty of structures behind which Taliban snipers lurk, complete with simulated sounds and smells of the village.
Afghan "role players" act as villagers -- some civilians, some enemies -- and "attack" on cue while more than 200 rooftop cameras capture the scene for later analyzation. Marines are evaluated on their ability to distinguish between noncombatants and enemies, among other things.
"Sometimes the enemies will launch their attacks from civilian houses or from civilian compounds among local people where we will then have to defend ourselves and that puts us in a situation where local people get hurt," said Maj. Gen Sayed Malouk of Afghan National Army No. 215 Corps. "On this visit I was able to see this training here. That problem has been solved and I do not have any concerns about that."
While in Southern California, the Afghan officers also visited with representatives from the U.S. Border Patrol, the Coast Guard and the Los Angeles Police Department. Securing Afghanistan's border with Pakistan is a crucial part of the battle against the Taliban.
"We're still working to establish an increased number of border check points along the border in order to reduce the number of cross border events," said Maj. Gen. Nabi Jan Mullah Khil of the Afghan National Police. "We will focus on training and equipping our security forces and we will do whatever we can to protect and guard our border."
The goal of the visit is for senior Afghan security leaders to take back what they learn and adapt it. Although great strides have been made in areas like the Helmund Province there is still a long way to go.
"This is the leadership of the forces we will partner with as we deploy into Helmand Province," said Maj. Gen. Charles Gurganus of the U.S. Marine Corps. "The most important aspect of their visit for me has been to spend time establishing relationships with them."
The five are now headed to Washington and then on to New York, where they will visit the site of the 9/11 attack.