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Thread: The USMC in Helmand (merged thread)

  1. #161
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Upper Gereshk: The Helmand plan meets tough reality

    A long BBC report after three weeks being with the USMC, which opens with:
    After 10 years in Afghanistan, foreign troops can claim successes in the notorious province of Helmand - but a vicious guerrilla war still rages in the Upper Gereshk valley, which US marines are in the process of handing back to British forces.
    Captain Andrew Terrell deployed here with the Royal Marines 40 Commando in 2007 and:
    not a lot has changed. The situation is no better. The people here are not fed up with the fighting, they've not reached the limit of what they're willing to accept from the Taliban. It's easier for them to move out of the area and hope it settles down, but they don't look much further than tomorrow.
    Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14897977

    From the tone I'd expect a film report to appear, but nothing is shown on the link.
    davidbfpo

  2. #162
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default 400 Taliban defectors

    When I read this passage I stopped and AFAIK this has not been in the public domain before:
    The result was a thankful population and, because “for the Taleban, losing people is not an issue but losing face is very important”, 400 Taleban defectors.
    There are other comments on this operation, mainly background on the commanders influence approach:http://www.scotsman.com/news/uk/mini...eral_1_2057051 and http://www.scotsman.com/news/kenny_f...arts_1_1362194
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  3. #163
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    Tequila, thanks for the link. Found pages 9 and 13 of particular interest, but in the end I think this quote sums it up.

    It is best, in Helmand, to look at the situation in terms of normal human motivation, rather than as a clash of ideology, religion, or ethnicity.

    However, this may not impact the overall situation in the country. The presence of foreign forces has skewed the debate; in Washington or London, much more attention is given to “strategic interests” and “global terrorism” than to local grievances and concerns.

  4. #164
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Looking back to look forward

    I'll echo Bill's comment and thanks to Tequila. I'd missed the NAF report on Helmand and wonder if anything has changed since September 2010, in Helmand for the locals.

    Citing Bill now and if we had concentrated on:
    local grievances and concerns
    and the principle of reducing harm to the locals, would we have achieved our objectives in Helmand and Afghanistan?

    I know we have attempted to look back at Iraq in the past, then looked around at other conflicts, both active and potential. If we adapted the principles of local issues first and reducing harm to the local populace would that satisfy our strategic objectives?

    Or returning to the Imperial practice in the ungoverned spaces of punitive action and leaving promptly having delivered a message.
    davidbfpo

  5. #165
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default As always, METT-TC applies.

    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Or returning to the Imperial practice in the ungoverned spaces of punitive action and leaving promptly having delivered a message.
    However, properly conducted that was, is and can be very effective far more times than not...

  6. #166
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Marines quit Helmand

    A short NYT article on the declining USMC presence and their replacement by:
    the Afghan National Army has grown, to almost four brigades with more than 16,000 soldiers...
    Link:http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/03/wo...pagewanted=all

    As a DoS veteran of Afghanistan remarked this week:
    Helmand Province only has 3% of the population, why the UK & USA made such a large commitment there is not easy to understand.
    davidbfpo

  7. #167
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    A short NYT article on the declining USMC presence and their replacement by:

    As a DoS veteran of Afghanistan remarked this week:
    As a matter of pure conjecture, I'd guess it was because the Marine Corps wanted into Afghan, and the Army said something along the lines of "Great--we already own all this battlespace, and we're not giving it up, and we don't really want you around us, so where can we send you? Hey, the British could use some help in Helmand!" Or something to that effect.

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    There was another post on the blog a few months ago that explained our leadership wanted the Marines to secure the population in Kandahar, but the Marines chose not to follow this order/advice(?) and struck out on their own into Helmand. One can speculate all day on why they did this. Did their leadership want a mission that had a higher probability of success, so they could support the never squeaking Marine propaganda wheel (look at our success)? Did they believe they could better secure Kandahar by securing the routes into Kandahar? Who knows, but it seems incredible if true they decided to follow their own strategy. We keep talking about the value of whole of government, coalition operations, but we need to get our joint operations straight first.

    Seems every nation, every service, SOF, and each government agency is to a large degree pursuing their own strategy. While this won't generate synergy, it may quite by accident overwhelm the Taliban by confusing the hell of them.

  9. #169
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    There was another post on the blog a few months ago that explained our leadership wanted the Marines to secure the population in Kandahar, but the Marines chose not to follow this order/advice(?) and struck out on their own into Helmand. One can speculate all day on why they did this. Did their leadership want a mission that had a higher probability of success, so they could support the never squeaking Marine propaganda wheel (look at our success)? Did they believe they could better secure Kandahar by securing the routes into Kandahar? Who knows, but it seems incredible if true they decided to follow their own strategy. We keep talking about the value of whole of government, coalition operations, but we need to get our joint operations straight first.

    Seems every nation, every service, SOF, and each government agency is to a large degree pursuing their own strategy. While this won't generate synergy, it may quite by accident overwhelm the Taliban by confusing the hell of them.
    I can't vouch for your first point, nor argue with your second. However, having been to both Iraq and Afghanistan with USMC units, and having seen very few soldiers in either theater, I'd submit that if your first point is true, the reason for it is probably related to why Anbar was mostly Marine territory in Iraq as well.

  10. #170
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    In one of the books I read about Helmand, I think "Little America", it said the reason the Marines went into Helmand was because their leadership wanted place where the large number of Marines going would all be under Marine control. Helmand was the the only place available that was empty enough of other US forces whereby they could do that. Which is what former_0302 said.

    And it further illustrates Bill's point that unified command is something we can't do at all. I thought unified command was the bedrock of small war fighting and if you didn't have unified command you were wasting your time? That is one thing all those much maligned small wars theorists said. But we never did it. For that matter unified command is vital in big war fighting too. I hope we remember how to do it before we get beat in the next big war.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

  11. #171
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Wrong province

    I too have read explanations for the USMC deployment to Helmand, politely but firmly pushing the UK & partners aside.

    Yes, unity of command - even within the US military - appears to be lacking. What our enemies made of this and the ANSF is a moot point.

    What I do not understand is why first the UK, then the USA decided Helmand Province was more important than Kandahar Province. Helmand has only 3% of the Afghan population. Yes the Canadians had a small battle group there and much later, I suspect in the surge, a Stryker Brigade went there.
    davidbfpo

  12. #172
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    A little late David, but Helmand produced something on the order of 25% of illicit drugs coming out of AFG.

  13. #173
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    A little late David, but Helmand produced something on the order of 25% of illicit drugs coming out of AFG.
    Jon,

    Poppy growing was not cited as a reason for the 2006 decision to send UK troops to Helmand, which was intensely political. The UK IIRC was in fact given the 'lead' responsibility for drugs in the whole country when tasks were shared out years before. I may have added posts on this on the UK in Afghanistan thread.

    On another thread there are posts on open source reporting of poppy production, which went up in Helmand - although I cannot recall when this increase happened.

    Understandably the UK in Helmand did not seriously pursue poppy production, which would have added to the insurgency and as events in 2006 proved it was quite easy to mobilise against an intruder - even if with a GIRoA label.
    Not every UK element agreed with this "hands off" stance and some destroyed the poppy product (name lost).
    davidbfpo

  14. #174
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default We did leave the ANSF some water

    Maybe the final operational post on this episode in USMC history. I cite a WaPo article on the logistics of exiting. Here is one thing left behind (as did the UK):
    The Marines decided to leave 420,000 bottles of water, which if lined up end to end would stretch for more than 50 miles.
    Link:http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/...d5_story.html?

    I do wonder if anything was moved overland to Karachi (which is subject of a thread on OEF logistics).
    davidbfpo

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