USMC "Darkhorse Battalion" and the Battle for Sangin: A 7- part Series

Discussion in 'Afghanistan' started by Andy_S, Nov 4, 2011.

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  1. Andy_S

    Andy_S LE Book Reviewer

    A thoughtful, in-depth and often moving piece of reporting from US National Public Radio.

    Well worth reading for a number of reasons, it covers:

    - US Marines' critique of UK Army/Marines' tactics in Sangin;
    - The aggressive tactical approach taken by the Darkhorse battalion in and outside the town;
    - Their heavy casualties (25 KIA, 184 WIA; heaviest toll in Afghan War; Pentagon mulled withdrawal);
    - How the Marines achieved (or defined, if you prefer) victory;
    - Their feelings as to whether the sacrifice was worth it; and
    - The strain on wives and families - including of the wounded and dead - on the home front.

    It was just over a year ago that Morris took nearly 1,000 Marines to a place in Helmand called Sangin. It was a haven for Taliban fighters and drug traffickers, a place where the British lost more than 100 troops in four years.

    But the British failed to push out and pursue the enemy, and the Taliban continued to control much of the area. It was Morris' job to take it back.

    At the time, Lt. Gen. Rich Mills was the senior Marine commander in Helmand. He says what Morris' unit went through was as brutal as anything in the history of the Marines.

    "It stands alone in the Afghanistan situation as probably being one of the tougher missions ever handed to an infantry battalion," Mills says.

    "It's very rare. I certainly would compare it to some of the amphibious assaults during World War II, places like Guadalcanal," he adds.

    Read the rest on your own:

    Part 1:
    For One Commander, Afghan Success Comes At High Price : NPR

    Part 2:
    An Afghan Hell On Earth For 'Darkhorse' Marines : NPR

    Part 3:
    As Casualties Mounted, So Did Marine Families' Fears : NPR

    Part 4:
    Strategy Behind A Marine Unit's Dangerous Mission : NPR

    Part 5:
    A Marine's Death, And The Family He Left Behind : NPR

    Part 6
    Sangin Timeline:
    Timeline: 'Darkhorse' Marines' Deadly Afghan Mission : NPR

    Part 7
  2. Just read through the whole lot, thanks for posting.

    Some pretty scathing opinions of the Brit tactics there; since the closest I got to Sangin was sorting the mail for it, what does anyone who was there think of their opinions of what we were doing (or not as the USMC opinions seems to be!)?
  3. Pararegtom

    Pararegtom LE Book Reviewer

    And Sleep ......
  4. I'd be more interested in a serious comparison of the resources that the USMC have/had in Sangin compared to the resources available to British forces.
    • Like Like x 3
  5. British offensive operations were hampered from day 1 thanks to a gross oversight in numbers required to get the job done. Instead of recognising that error and doing something about it, the Army headshed (true to form) kept tight lipped in fear of rocking the boat with their bosses.

    End result IMHO ....The Brits held the line for four years and achieved little else due to restrictions in numbers.

    Although I’d argue the quote in the article which said something along the lines “The Brits never took the fight to the enemy” I can completely understand if there are Yanks out there who are fed up with doing all the heavy lifting after it comes all too apparent that the job will never get done as long as the ever present British and their reluctance to commit sufficient troop numbers and kit are in charge.

    Sad but true.
  6. Andy_S

    Andy_S LE Book Reviewer

    I thought it a good piece of reporting, and hope to discuss it with some Jarheads I'll be addressing on the occasion of their corps' birthday next week.

    As noted, we may argue details or even make excuses, but the Americans did take over and appear to have done the job. According to the piece, they inserted a battalion group into the town and its environs, taking over from 41 Cdo, RM, who were, AFAIK, of approximately the same bayonet strength. But as for heli assets and logistical support, it goes without saying that they were better off than us.

    That having been said...

    Putting on my cynical specs, the Americans are rather good at declaring victory. I'd be curious to know exactly how pacified Sangin is at present.
    • Like Like x 1

    FORMER_FYRDMAN LE Book Reviewer

    The moral component was seriously lacking in both Iraq and Afghanistan as far as the UK was concerned. It's not the fault of the troops on the ground if their political leaders and senior chain of command won't let them do the job with the intensity required to be effective because of domestic political concerns, which is pretty much what happened. The USMC would have been in the same position here if they'd had to operate under the constraints Clinton applied to US forces after Mogadishu.
  8. Andy_S

    Andy_S LE Book Reviewer

    The moral component was seriously lacking in both Iraq and Afghanistan as far as the UK was concerned

    That may be a fair comment, but it is not just about top managment directives.

    I get the sense from the Yanks I talk to that they are there to win these fights, as payback for 9/11. (A decade past though 9/11 may be.) I don't know if your chaps have the same gut motivation.

    FORMER_FYRDMAN LE Book Reviewer

    The British Army doesn't require that level of motivation to get stuck in and generally never has done in the modern era.

    You can't do anything with cretins like Blair, Brown et al calling the shots and it doesn't help either when those in the most senior command positions model their style on Keitel and Jodl.
    • Like Like x 2
  10. I think this snip from pt 2 says it all
    "Instead of pulling Darkhorse out, the military sent hundreds more Marines, as well as mine-clearing equipment. Progress At A Price

    Two months went by. By January, things started to get better.
    Capt. Chris Esrey remembers that getting "more boots on the deck really increased our patrolling," while Sgt. Daniel Robert says it became easier for the Marines to get some rest"
    I doubt that happened with the British forces!
  11. I served with the battlegroup in Sangin last year and was there for the gang**** the americans like to call " taking the fight to the enemy " " declaring victory " and other bollox While the UK forces were hampered by lack of numbers and resources to get the job done 100% , the UK did one very important piece of work the ****ing brain donor jarheads didnt understand. We established a massive footprint of PBs in the AO. It could be argued that it tied up large numbers in static locations but it did allow the battlegroup a large permanent footprint there. I wont go into too much detail here but the us marines were proper****ed in a very short time as they sacrificed that permanent presence in favour of mobility. There was an excellent documentary on earlier this year ( channel 4 i think ?) on the marines clearing a route back to Wishtan. Some very good interviews with the troops on the ground doing the work. End of the day, its the boots on the ground - be they uk or us who will end up taking the hits because some **** wants some letters after his name.
  12. I think the main difference is is that we were pussy footing around the enemy with courageous restraint all the rage at the time. The yanks went in and smashed them to pieces. We weren't allowed as it might have upset the enemy and we can't be having that! Trying to get permission to smash the enemy after a PID took far too long. Obviously not having enough troops to cover a wide area didn't help either.
  13. The Brits don't dote on the emotional link between a firefight in Helmand and the 9/11 attacks in the same way as the Yanks do but if you think that somehow makes them any less motivated in a firefight then you would be mistaken.

    I’m a little unsure exactly what the USMC is suggesting when they say "the brits were unwilling to take the fight to the Taliban"...........

    If that accusation is being fingered at the "Tommy level" then I’d say it was laughable as instead of the Brits being unwilling to "take the fight to the enemy" like some are suggesting I’d like to point out that until recent times Brits have been more inclined to "close with and kill" thanks to having less options open to them due to traditionally having inferior standoff weaponry and CAS compared to our American cousins.

    If the accusation is being aimed at the higher levels then I'd say it was a fair one (although poorly worded). For too long (at our own leaders choosing) the Brit TF was undermanned and under resourced. All Brit commanders on the ground from top to bottom soon became aware the high risk associated with over committing their limited forces to certain fights. Basically, we had to be a bit more picky in regards to which scraps we got into where as I don’t think the USMC have that worry.
  14. I think you'll find that some units are very unwilling to close in and take on the enemy. Ask anyone in 3 PARA about the shower of shite we took over from on H13. Controversial but true.

    The outrage bus is awaiting your inspection.
  15. Alright then. What's this about the shower of shite you took over from on H13. :)