Odds are, many of the Walking Dead are dead bored.
That’s the reality of deploying with a Marine unit in an area that has largely been pacified. First Battalion, 9th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., must remain on its toes, but it is deployed in Nawa, Afghanistan, a community that has been highlighted by many experts as an example of success in the war in Afghanistan.
Nawa first showed substantial signs of improvement last summer, even as neighboring Marjah district remained a volatile area in which Marines fought for their lives daily. They’re both widely considered to be in better shape now — which means they’re being eyeballed for a transition in which Afghan security forces will take control. Marines will remain in the area in an advisory role, but in substantially smaller numbers.
A new Marine Corps news release highlights the planning that must go into that. Nawa is “on the cusp” of transition, said Lt. Col. Tyler Zagurski, commander of 1/9.
“We expect soon to hear that Nawa will change to Afghanistan control and that is because of the progress that has been made in governance, security and development,” he said in the release. “The Afghan army is well trained and getting better every day. The [Afghan Local Police] is getting training and is getting better every day. We will continue to work with civil affairs to complete the projects that are so important to Nawa, like schools and clinics.”
It’s worth remembering just how bad Nawa was a few years ago. A rural farming community of about 80,000 people, it was under Taliban control when Marine forces assaulted it in July 2009. This AP dispatch described the early portion of that operation, which involved about 4,000 Marines and sailors fanning out across Nawa and neighboring Garmser districts.
At the time, Marines with 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., told embedded journalists that they were amazed at how determined Taliban fighters in the region were. Some of those fighters likely escaped to Marjah, tangling with Marines regularly through last fall.