Afghan Flag Raises Above Khan Neshin
2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade
Story by Cpl. Aaron Rooks
KHAN NESHIN, Afghanistan - The Afghan national flag was raised above Khan Neshin castle in the Rig District Center July 8 for the first time, signaling the arrival of Afghan governance in the southern reaches of Helmand province.
Khan Neshin and the areas south of the Helmand River have never experienced the sustained presence of coalition forces or Afghan national security forces, until now, seven days after the beginning of Operation Khanjar.
"The number one question we get from the people is, 'when are you leaving?'" said Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, commanding general of Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan. "The answer is we're not leaving until the transition for security is made to the provincial government, to include the Afghan forces."
Afghans from the local populace came to Khan Neshin shortly after the flag was raised, where they heard statements from Helmand Gov. Gulab Mangal and newly-appointed Rig District Gov. Massoud Jan. Dozens of locals then gathered around a large courtyard within the district center to sign up for voting in the upcoming national elections.
"Look at them," said Gen. Muhaidin, brigade commander, 3rd Afghan National Army Brigade, 205 Corps, gesturing toward the crowd. "Now they know that the government is here and they have security. [The Afghans] have hope, that's why they're here."
B-roll of U.S. Marines and the Afghan national army occupying the Khan Nechion castle in south Helmand Province. Scenes include a firefight between Marine and Afghan army soldiers against insurgents, various views of the castle, a Marine Corps bulldozer that hit an improvised explosive device (IED) and interviews with Marines discussing entering the Khan Nechion castle and surviving a IED explosion.
• Pfc. Ryan Martin of Tracy, CA.
• Cpl. Wilfredo Jimenez of Laredo, TX.
• Cpl. Markus Hillman of Ann Arbor, MI.
• Cpl. Derrick Unitaowski of Slippery Rock, PA. (Who says what his parents "don't know won't hurt them". Well... they know now, Cpl!)
And finally, a podcast interview with Brig. Gen. Nicholson from Afghanistan via @MarineCorpsNews.
See also: Life with the Marines in Helmand (photos) and Op Khanjar (photos).