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Thread: The USMC in Helmand (merged thread)

  1. #61
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    Default Battle of Marjah

    Some are touting this as the possible turning point for the Afghan campaign. Not sure if that's the expectation among the military inner circle or if this is just pundit talk and media hyperbole.
    Telegraphing of intentions so civilians can flee, dug-in enemy, IED's and booby-traps, indigenous forces mixed in... sounds like Fallujah 3.0
    Fallujah 3000 insurgents in a city with population of 425,000
    Marjah 400-2000 insurgents in a town with population of 85,000 (Disclaimed: Wiki stats)

    Marines push 'The Breacher' against Taliban lines

    Nato begins major Afghanistan offensive (Video & Map)

    US Marines, Afghan troops attack Taliban-held town
    Marine commanders say they expect between 400 to 1,000 insurgents — including more than 100 foreign fighters — to be holed up in Marjah, a town of 80,000 people in Helmand province. Marjah is the biggest southern town under Taliban control and the linchpin of the militants' logistical and opium-smuggling network.

  2. #62
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Marjah isn't a town.

    Marjah is an area with a network of irrigation canals built by US AID in the 50s. Picture flying over Iowa or central valley's of California more than a town.

    But with each farm a walled compound. Densely populated, and the heart of the Poppy growing region.
    Robert C. Jones
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    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    BW is completely correct. If you go to google maps and search "marjeh Afghanistan" and zoom in to the big green area in the desert you'll get an idea of the region and terrain.

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    It's notable that LtCol Brian Christmas, CO of 3d Bn 6th Marines, is the son of LtGen George Christmas, company commander in 2/5 during the fight to regain Hue in '68.

    I can only imagine the stories the younger Christmas will have to recount to his father when he gets home.

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    Moderator's Note copied here from another thread

    I'm hearing rumblings of heliborne assaults being used to support shaping operations for the attack to clear mission of Marjah.

    Those would have good utility for avoiding IED-sewn areas on the way to key terrain objectives, and there's good reason to trust the inserted force can sustain itself relative to the threat until a more deliberate clearance mission can be executed to get to the maneuver elements. They'd seal off ratlines by establishing a traffic control/vehicle checkpoint, or total barrier plan.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-14-2010 at 12:46 PM. Reason: Mod's note

  6. #66
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    Moderator's Note copied here from another thread

    If history is any guide, Taliban fighters typically withdraw, leaving a host of hastily constructed IEDs behind that have become more powerful over the years. Large-scale withdrawal is usually followed by pockets of fierce resistance from limited groupings of fighters while small IED emplacement teams and teams of fighters harass perimeter forces with small arms fire and RPGs.40
    The quote above is from the backgrounder article posted to the SWJ Blog post about Marjah.

    Has anyone seen a breakout of unit organization that the various Taliban forces have employed, and the command and control methods employed (besides the obvious reliance on FRS type radios).

    We saw them employ 30 5-man teams against one of the COPs (can't remember if it was Wanat or Keating)), but how does that shake out against their normal command structure and fighting organization? Do they just mob about aboard motorcycles and small pickups, or is there some semblance of team and squad organization for the fighters.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-14-2010 at 12:46 PM. Reason: Mod's note

  7. #67
    Council Member Danny's Avatar
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    Default Minor point on original post ...

    Fallujah never had that many residents. It simply isn't big enough.

  8. #68
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    Moderator's Note copied here from another thread

    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    I'm hearing rumblings of heliborne assaults being used to support shaping operations for the attack to clear mission of Marjah.

    Those would have good utility for avoiding IED-sewn areas on the way to key terrain objectives, and there's good reason to trust the inserted force can sustain itself relative to the threat until a more deliberate clearance mission can be executed to get to the maneuver elements. They'd seal off ratlines by establishing a traffic control/vehicle checkpoint, or total barrier plan.
    The coalition should have been able to mass enough ressources to implement this approach and to make it hopefully work. As we already discussed in this thread, great parts of the territory should facilitate the use of inserted elements, be it observation or fighting/blocking forces.

    We will see how this works out well.


    Firn
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-14-2010 at 12:47 PM. Reason: Mod's note

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    Jcustis,

    I seem to remember there is some stuff at CALL on that, but am unable to check right now. It's also important to note that organization could be quite different between Nuristan and the south, but I don't have any ready info on that either. This may be useful (PPT) if you haven't seen it already.

  10. #70
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    Quote Originally Posted by Danny View Post
    Fallujah never had that many residents. It simply isn't big enough.
    Just about every reference, from CPA census stats, to other online sources, run the population pre-2003, from 425-470K+.

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    The long and straight open ground created by the irrigation channels or ditches and the dust roads might greatly facilitate the isolate and control part of the operation.

    Firn

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    Moderator's Note copied here from another thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Firn View Post
    The coalition should have been able to mass enough ressources to implement this approach and to make it hopefully work. As we already discussed in this thread, great parts of the territory should facilitate the use of inserted elements, be it observation or fighting/blocking forces.

    We will see how this works out well.


    Firn
    One likelihood is that even though several aircraft were massed, many of them were reserved for mass casualty CASEVAC. They would be tagged for missions in the shaping phases, but reserved once things kicked off.

    There are still operations occurring in other parts of the area of operations, so the number of MEDEVAC aircraft remains a finite entity. Assets might merely be located further forward, but the number available remain the same.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-14-2010 at 12:47 PM. Reason: Mods note

  13. #73
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    Quote Originally Posted by Entropy View Post
    Jcustis,

    I seem to remember there is some stuff at CALL on that, but am unable to check right now. It's also important to note that organization could be quite different between Nuristan and the south, but I don't have any ready info on that either. This may be useful (PPT) if you haven't seen it already.
    Its' been a while since I sat down with that one. Thanks for a hour-long read today.

  14. #74
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    Default Some points

    I was reading some of the UK media reports AM and made these notes (could n't get a working link to SWC then).

    From the:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...han-surge.html

    Two hours before dawn the first Chinooks swept low over the Taliban district capital of Showal disgorging a force of British, Afghan and French troops signalling “D-Day”, the start of Operation Moshtarak.
    It is estimated the enemy strength, which at its highest point reach 300 fighters, may have shrunk to less than 100 with a number melting away from the area before the attack began.
    Quite a contrast from earlier figures.

    The task force is supported by artillery firepower from all points of the compass. From Camp Bastion, 15 miles away to the north..
    Camp Bastion being the main UK FOB since 2006, so close to the Taliban controlled town.

    Moshtarak means “together” in Dari and (my emphasis)for the first time ISAF troops will be working shoulder-to-shoulder with equal numbers of Afghan security forces.
    The BBC:
    The symbolism is potent - the offensive involves British, some European and US forces, as well as about 2,500 Afghan military personnel, one of the largest Afghan contingents to be used in such assaults.
    From:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/8500903.stm
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-13-2010 at 11:00 PM.
    davidbfpo

  15. #75
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    An Update on the fighting by the NYTimes.

    As expected part of the forces are inserted by helicopter, using well sited walled compounds as part of blocking positions and as springboards.

    As helicopter wheels touched soil, the aircraft filled with whoops, and the Marines stood and bolted for the tail ramp.

    They moved briskly. Within minutes, the first Marines of Third Platoon were entering compounds to the landing zone’s north, checking for enemy fighters and booby traps. The rest of the platoon followed through the gate.

    Firn

  16. #76
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    It's unlikely IMO that these knuckleheads will be slipping away from this one. so what are the odds that they are just withdrawing to a central point? And to think that I'll miss the sitreps as I head of to 30 days in the Stumps

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    Default jcustis Reply

    It's unlikely IMO that these knuckleheads will be slipping away from this one.
    I fear that the taliban in this area are comprised of a variety of differing elements. Foreigners and key commanders have probably split to preserve themselves. According to NYT, IIRC, the shadow district governor was captured from a vehicle in Kandahar heading to points unknown (Kandahar? Arghandab? Pakistan?). Many of the local farmers ARE taliban fighters according to Jeffrey Dessler in his ISW report.

    They'll play innocent and do their family thingy for the present. I can easily foresee no big battles but an insurgency to test the resilience of the ANP and Afghan administrators once things appear "pacified".

    There's no real incentive for the taliban to make some heroic last stand at the Alamo. Who's got the endurance and can we peel away enough of the local fighter/farmers to transition out of the current opium/economic cycle overtime? Can the ANP and Afghan civilian administrators live up to the bargain and be solid contributors? THEY WILL BE TESTED in a myriad of threats and inducements to buckle.

    Guess we'll see over time. Hope we're flexible at the operational and strategic levels. Hope we're willing to quash any hints of corruption and incompetence and not "go along to get along" with the Karzai clique.
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski, a.k.a. "The Dude"

  18. #78
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    Default Insight amidst spin

    A mass of comments on the operation, I am mindful that most of the press reporting is from Kandahar FOB and only a few journalists are "on the ground".

    Abu M commends three reports:http://www.cnas.org/blogs/abumuqawam...-analysis.html

    FRI has an excellent piece on the role of SOF:http://freerangeinternational.com/blog/?p=2671

    I note in one photo of a USMC unit being addressed before the operation there was a handful of ANA in the photo and one article cites a ratio of 2 US: 1 ANA. Sorry from afar too much "spin" and others refer to the bulk of the Afghan presence are 1900 newly arrived ANP (ANCOP).
    davidbfpo

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    The mistaken killing of 12 Afghan civilians prompts U.S. apology
    The use of the rockets has been suspended pending a "thorough review" of the incident, the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force said in a statement.

    According to Dawood Ahmedi , a spokesman for the provincial governor of Helmand, 27 insurgents were killed so far, with five wounded and 11 arrested. The advancing force has uncovered 5,500 lbs of explosives.
    Some folks have been inquiring about what ISAF plans to do with the poppy fields in the area but I haven't heard a definitive response. I would think eradication would be a deal breaker for the average Afghan farmer.
    Also the phrase "clear, hold and build" seems to be en vogue again... which reminded me of Gen McMaster. Anyone know where he's assigned to these days?

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    Default In re:

    Quote Originally Posted by jarodparker View Post
    the mistaken killing of 12 afghan civilians prompts u.s. Apology


    some folks have been inquiring about what isaf plans to do with the poppy fields in the area but i haven't heard a definitive response. I would think eradication would be a deal breaker for the average afghan farmer.
    Also the phrase "clear, hold and build" seems to be en vogue again... Which reminded me of gen mcmaster. Anyone know where he's assigned to these days?
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