Thunderpig’s Mirror

U.S. Marines In Helmand

Posted by Thunder Pig on May 28, 2008

US marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit in southern Afghanistan.
Photograph: David Guttenfelder/AP

For two years British troops staked out a presence in this small district center in southern Afghanistan and fended off attacks from the Taliban. The constant firefights left it a ghost town, its bazaar broken and empty but for one baker, its houses and orchards reduced to rubble and weeds.

But it took the U.S. Marines, specifically the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, about 96 hours to clear out the Taliban in a fierce battle in the past month and push them back 10 kilometers, or six miles …

The marines’ drive against the Taliban in this large farming region is certainly not finished, and the Taliban have often been pushed out of areas in Afghanistan only to return in force. But for the British forces and for Afghan residents, the result of the recent operation has been palpable …

Major Neil Den-McKay, the officer commanding a company of the Royal Regiment of Scotland based here, said of the U.S. Marine’s assault: “They have disrupted the Taliban’s freedom of movement and pushed them south, and that has created the grounds for us to develop the hospital and set the conditions for the government to come back.” People have started coming back to villages north of the town, he added, saying, “There has been huge optimism from the people.”

For the marines, it was a chance to hit the enemy with the full panoply of their firepower in places where they were confident there were few civilians. The Taliban put up a tenacious fight, rushing in reinforcements in cars and vans from the south and returning again and again to the attack. But they were beaten back in four days by three companies of marines, two of which were dropped in by helicopter to the south east …

Marines from Charlie Company said the reaction from the returning population, mostly farmers, has been favorable. “Everyone says they don’t like the Taliban,” said Captain John Moder, 34, commander of Charlie Company. People had complained that the Taliban stole food, clothes and vehicles from them, he said …

Source: The Captain’s Journal, where the author also offers analysis and wonders is we will repeat the mistakes of others in Afghanistan.

Commentary


The article reveals a difference in approach to warfighting doctrines. The British were apparently satisfied to “hole up” in the district with a fort mentality that focused on holding ground, and falling back to the medieval idea of abandoning agricultural lands in the face of conflict, and retreating to a central strong point. Even after the US Marines cleared out the province, the British seemed to not have caught on.

The results of the current Presidential Election will be very important in determining whether or not we have the intestinal fortitude to continue with a long-term strategy of helping the Afghanis become strong enough to resist the Taliban on their own, and to help them establish an economic and agriculture system that can displace the poppy fields, much to the dismay or druggies, libertarians, and Ron Paul Supporters everywhere.

Who is more likely to continue our current policy in Afghanistan? McCain or Obama?

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