• ARRSE have partnered with Armadillo Merino to bring you an ARRSE exclusive, generous discount offer on their full price range.
    To keep you warm with the best of Merino gear, visit www.armadillomerino.co.uk and use the code: NEWARRSE40 at the checkout to get 40% off!
    This superb deal has been generously offered to us by Armadillo Merino and is valid until midnight on the the 28th of February.

U.S. Marines Launch Major Operation in Afghanistan

U.S. Marines Launch Major Operation in Afghanistan

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 1, 2009; 5:32 PM
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan, July 2 -- Thousands of U.S. Marines descended upon the volatile Helmand River valley in helicopters and armored convoys early Thursday morning, mounting an operation that represents the first large-scale test of the U.S. military's new counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan.

The operation will involve about 4,000 troops from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, which was dispatched to Afghanistan earlier this year by President Obama to combat a growing Taliban insurgency in Helmand and other southern provinces. The Marines, along with an Army brigade that is scheduled to arrive later this summer, plan to push into pockets of the country where NATO forces have not had a presence. In many of those areas, the Taliban have evicted local police and government officials, and taken power.
More on the link

I don't think this part has been reported yet?

With the arrival of the Marines, British forces have redeployed around the capital of Helmand, Lashkar Gah, where they are conducting a large anti-Taliban operation designed to complement the Marine mission. Two British soldiers were reported killed in fighting in the province Wednesday.


Book Reviewer
This is a brigade-sized operation with the USMC taking the key manouver role. THe USMC commander is stressing to his troops - America's most aggressive - that they need to minimize civilian casualties. Story here about USMC commander (who sounds like a smart and charismatic leader):

Meanwhile, the New York Times is reporting that British tactics in Helmand have been too reliant upon aerial firepower:
The British have had too few troops to conduct full-scale counterinsurgency operations and have often relied on heavy aerial weapons, including bombs and helicopter gunships, to attack suspected fighters and their hide-outs. The strategy has alienated much of the population because of the potential for civilian deaths.

It is a significant turnaround for the US media to be accusing the British Army of being too firepower-focused....yet at the same time, Beeb is reporting on compensation claims for civilians deaths caused in UK operations:

So, this is it: Clearly the Americans are taking the initiative in Helmand. In the coming months, we may be able to assess whether the American operations are more effective than the British.


Book Reviewer
Surfer_Smithy said:
I'm no expert but surely a surge where troops are able to actually take and hold ground is a winner right?
Everyone elses doctrine says so, and I'm sure ours does too. Unfortunately, that conflicts completely with Government doctrine on Armed Forces funding and manning.
Biped said:
Surfer_Smithy said:
I'm no expert but surely a surge where troops are able to actually take and hold ground is a winner right?
Everyone elses doctrine says so, and I'm sure ours does too. Unfortunately, that conflicts completely with Government doctrine on Armed Forces funding and manning.
Seconded. I'm getting a serious dose of deja vu on all this - apart from the words Basra and Iraqi being replaced by Helmand and Afghani. This is getting embarrassing. :oops:
Although im enjoying the fact that we are doing some damage to Taliban logistics. Is anyone else seeing the problem with a full offensive such as this?

Surely the Taliban fighters can fade back into the civilian population as they have been known to do or simply down arms so that they cannot be engaged and wait for the U.S. Marines to leave?

On a seperate issue, maybe the Marines were not the best people for this mission. They are well known for there outstanding ability as soldiers but from what i gather they are not the best when it comes to communicating with the Civilian population. Im sure this is the key when dealing with a situation in which the Civilian population are sheltering enemy combatants!

I am in no way slagging off the Operation as it does have its merits and i wish those taking part good luck. Surely it could have been executed in a much better way though?
For anyone interested, here are some extracts from good commentary on US ops. Reading it, I feel someones nicked a copy of Kitsons "Bunch of Five," but it's quite clear, the Americans are in the ascendancy and have the resources and will to take the mission as far as it can go in a place like Afghanistan.

"The new strategy for Afghanistan being implemented by U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the International Security Assistance Force's new commander, is now taking shape -- one that shifts the emphasis from "kinetic," or conventional, fighting toward "winning hearts and minds." In the meantime, the largest part of the initial surge of troops into Afghanistan is being completed with the arrival of the 2nd U.S. Marine Expeditionary Brigade in Helmand province in the country's southwest. On July 2, some 4,000 of these Marines began to conduct operations in the Helmand River Valley in what has become the largest Marine operation since the twin battles of Fallujah in 2004. "

"As the United States shifts its focus from Iraq to Afghanistan, it faces some very real challenges -- rooted not so much in strategy as in the underlying realities of Afghanistan. To address those realities, the focus on civilian hearts and minds will be combined with a more judicious use of force. Key elements of the strategy that have emerged so far are these:

Institute more restrictive rules of engagement and more oversight for fire support and close air support in order to reduce civilian "collateral damage." If a unit is being engaged by fighters taking refuge in civilian dwellings, that unit will be expected to withdraw to safety rather than destroy the insurgent position so long as doing so does not endanger soldiers' lives.

Institute procedures that soften the intrusiveness and negative impact of security operations such as search and seizure and detainee treatment.

Push a "cultural" shift among U.S. and NATO forces that enables troops to recognize the critical importance of winning hearts and minds.

Establish a more distributed presence among the people, similar to the "clear, hold, build" concept in the Iraq surge.

Stop the flow of money, weapons, fighters and other forms of support from outside Afghanistan into the country."

"McChrystal is extremely well regarded and considered a sharp and focused senior officer well versed in counterinsurgency. He commanded the shadowy Joint Special Operations Command from late 2003 well into 2008, overseeing some of the most difficult and innovative special operations efforts in Iraq. He is hand-picking the team to lead the effort in Afghanistan and has asked Gen. David Rodriguez, formerly U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' right-hand man, to serve as his deputy. McChrystal also has asked Rear Adm. Greg Smith, the officer who coordinated communications in Iraq for Gen. David Petraeus during the surge, to come out of retirement. A command team of 400 officers and soldiers with a long-term commitment to the Afghan campaign will rotate back and forth from the United States and continue to work with local contacts to better learn the country's political and cultural terrain."

"Indeed, while important shifts are underway in the U.S. and NATO strategy in Afghanistan, the effort is destined to remain undermanned and underequipped. The United States may double its troop presence in Afghanistan by the end of the year and perhaps further expand it in 2010, but it is unlikely to reach the nearly 120,000 troops the Soviets committed at the height of their occupation. Even that was not enough to impose a military reality in the country. Instead, Washington will try to achieve as ideal an outcome as possible with the forces it is willing to dedicate. Any real change, even assuming a substantial long-term commitment, has a chance of taking hold only on a five- to 10-year horizon."

There's more but you get the idea.
Deadreckon said:
Beeb coverage: link

Wonder what the "official" Brit role is in all this?
Slope off into the background and admit that although man for man the troops are capable of sustaining this kind of war that the British Armed Services are not what they once were and need some man power. Rather than stop chopping the budget to shreds the government would rather do what those in days of old did and call the yanks.
Isnt it just too easy to fall back on the lack of resources, the US went through a major naval gazing exercise and had the courage and intellectual rigour to admit mistakes, radically change the way they did things and resource up.

The narrative seem to centre on lack of resources yet still maintain we are the font of all COIN knowledge


Book Reviewer
Since when were we (ie the British) the font of all COIN knowledge?

We failed in Southern Iraq, and are, by virtually any rubric, failing in Afghanistan.

Knowledge is not power - the ability to take action on the basis of said knowledge is power.


Book Reviewer
RE: USMC being aggressive troops
Certainly they are (and for 'troops' to be 'aggressive' is a positive) but they have had plenty of experience in Iraq with COIN - both failure and post-surge success - and their own commander is stressing that they should not put civvies at risk while duelling with the Taliban.

Contrast this with the NYT's comments on the airpower-heavy war we have been fighting down south, and it looks like the US Marines may be taking a more restrained approach than the UK Army...
I would also have to say, that having worked with and trained the USMC over the last two years - including pre-deployment training for this Op, that they are most certainly the right people for the job.

Of course they do things differently to our forces, they have different numbers, different equipment and different lessons learned from different theatres of war.

Man for man though, they have an 'esprit de corps' that is unmatched. They expect nothing less than to be pushed to the limit when they are on ex / ops, they believe it makes them harder. And they have a 'can do' attitude that makes them super motivated.

I have enjoyed working with them, found them a little strange to begin with, but once you get used to it they are good people to know.
Andy_S said:
Since when were we (ie the British) the font of all COIN knowledge?

We failed in Southern Iraq, and are, by virtually any rubric, failing in Afghanistan.

Knowledge is not power - the ability to take action on the basis of said knowledge is power.
Fully agree. We spend far too long ensuring that our regimental and brigade histories look good at the end of the tour rather than ensuring that our successes and failures are then translated into doctrine.

Latest Threads