Aug 27 at 5:05pm by David Tate
Top US Marine General James Conway says he wants to see the US Marine presence in Afghanistan increase as troop needs in Iraq’s Anbar Province are set to start drawing down in early September.
“The requirement right now inis much more about nation-building than it is fighting. And quite frankly, join our corps to go fight for their country,” Conway said at a Pentagon briefing.
“It’s our view that if there’s a stiffer fight going on someplace else … then that’s where we need to be.”
Currently 25,000 Marines, commanded by the First Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF), operate in the former insurgent hotbed west of Baghdad.
For months there have been reports the Marines have been vying for a more active battlespace with Afghanistan at the top of the list.
Conway’s remarks come as Iraqi security forces are set to take over security duties for Anbar Province on September 1st. Anbar, scene of some of the war’s bloodiest fighting around Fallujah and Ramadi, will be the 11th (of 18) province returned to Iraqi government control.
Roughly 4,000 US Marines are currently serving in Afghanistan, most of them in Helmand and Farah Provinces in the south. There, the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and 2nd Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment (2/7) are training Afghan Security forces and providing security for development projects. Both units have already been extended once, for 30 days, and are scheduled to leave the country in November. Other than Afghan forces, no units have been designated as replacements.
Conway said he would like to address the strain his Marines have been under since 2001 by limiting his expeditionary forces to 15,000, most of whom would be used in Afghanistan. Currently 34,000 Marines, or 1/6 of the entire Marine Corps, are deployed.
Aug 27 at 3:03pm by David Tate
For the past several weeks, Afghan National Army infantry soldiers have begun moving into Helmand’s volatile Garmser district, some five months after US Marines took control of the district center, according to Marine spokesperson Captain Kelly Frushour.
The move ends speculation over the ability of coalition forces to replace the Marines once their mission is complete. The infantry soldiers join elements of an Afghan commando unit and an artillery kandak already deployed to the area. The Afghans will work alongside British forces following the Marines’ departure.
The Marines, members of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), have been in Afghanistan since March and are due to leave in November. The 2,200 members of the unit have already been extended 30 additional days. The 24th MEU’s mission makes it a “surge” force that was considered a one time deal with no plans for an American replacement unit.
By the last major engagement on May 30, the Marines had been involved in more than 200 firefights including, at one time, 35 straight days of combat. The succesful operation forced most of the insurgents further south allowing the Marines to begin employing a second tier of their mission: Rebuilding.
“I don’t see them as phases (moving from a fighting force to a humanitarian/security force), said the MEU’s commanding officer Col. Pete Petronzio. “I think of them as a circle that runs continuously. We’re constantly clearing, constantly holding and constantly rebuilding.”
In June, the unit’s overall mission was reevaluated. Instead of being ordered into other Taliban-infested regions, it was decided that the Marines would stay in Garmser to facilitate the transfer of security duties to the Afghans themselves. That part of the mission includes reconstruction as well as additional civil projects and the training of local security forces, particularly the Afghan National Border Police (ANBP).
Strategically important, Garmser was used by insurgent forces as a command and control hub. Because of its geography, Garmser was vital to the infiltration of weapons and fighters into south central Afghanistan, especially northern Helmand and Uruzgan Provinces.
Aug 22 at 8:08am by David Tate
Combined US and Afghan forces killed a known Taliban leader, and as many as 30 followers, in Shindand district, Herat Province on August 22.
Mullah Sadiq was the focus of a raid by coalition troops when they were ambushed enroute to the operation’s target compound. As coalition forces approached the compound, militants inside attacked from multiple points using small arms and RPG fire.
The Americans and Afghans responded inkind, then ordered up an airstrike on the position, killing Sadiq and up to 30 other fighters. Two civilians were also wounded.
Aug 12 at 6:06pm by David Tate
Starting on June 14 at Ft. Irwin, California, a team of ten young people began a journey of remembrance for the American men and women who have died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. On August 12, the team made their way into southwestern Virginia, stopping in Christiansburg. Coincidentally, or not, the team’s August 12 stop is in the same hometown as OIF’s latest US serviceman killed in Iraq, Sgt. Kenny Gibson.
The run is scheduled to finish outside of Arlington National Cemetary on Sunday, August 24th. At that time, participants will run one last length for all our fallen soldiers in both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.