Combat Is No Longer Off The Table For Marines In Afghanistan

news
U.S. Marines adjust an 81mm mortar to improve defensive posture near Gereshk, Afghanistan, Sept. 22, 2017.
U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Lucas Hopkins

The Marines in southern Afghanistan are tasked with helping Afghan security forces from inside the wire, but their commander said it is also possible for them to go into combat.


Marine Brig. Gen. Benjamin Watson leads the second rotation of Task Force Southwest, which assumed the mission of advising Afghan troops and police on Monday. The Marines, mostly from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, are trained to assist the Afghans with operations, logistics and other battlefield tasks.

Over the past nine months, Marine commanders have consistently said that the Marines in Helmand province do not accompany Afghan troops and police into battle, but on Monday, Watson gave a slightly different answer when asked if the Marines’ mission includes fighting alongside the Afghans.

“We have the authority to do that,” Watson told Task & Purpose. “Whether or not we exercise that authority is going to depend on how we assess the situation at the time, and obviously I’m not going to get into specifics on that.”

A Marine with Task Force Southwest observes an Afghan soldier on the rifle range.U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Lucas Hopkins

Nothing in Watson’s well-couched answer indicates that Marines are about to launch “Operation Marjah II: The Revenge,” but his comments leave the door open for Marines embedding with Afghan units when they battle the Taliban.

Until now, that wasn’t part of the mission. None of the roughly 300 Marines returning home from Helmand province after nine months has received a Combat Action Ribbon stemming from the deployment, Marine Corps Times reported last week.

Even though the Marines did not go into combat, they still got some. In October, the task force received a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, which it used to destroy Taliban bomb-making factories and drug labs.

The strikes on the drug labs were part of a wider blitz by the U.S. military to choke off the Taliban’s financing. Air Force fighters and bombers also attacked the Taliban’s narcotics network.

However, Watson cautioned that the task force is only interested in eliminating drug labs that finance Taliban operations. The broader counternarcotics mission falls under the Afghan government’s purview. Ultimately, success in Afghanistan will require an Afghan solution, he said.

“We’re focused on the security lane and try to set the conditions for the Afghans to achieve some kind of sustainable solution in the long term,” Watson said.

Toward that end, the Marines will expand on efforts over the past nine months to advise Afghan units at the brigade and the battalion level, he said.The new task force brings “some enhanced capabilities” that will allow more Marines to deploy to Afghan base.

During the previous rotation, small teams of Marines known as “expeditionary adviser packages”  reportedly traveled to Afghan forward operating bases to help Afghan units with fire support and other missions.

The new task force brings “some enhanced capabilities” that will give the Marines the security needed to deploy to Afghan bases, which are spread out across Helmand province, Watson said.

“It’s more persistent advising as opposed to episodic advising at a lower level,” Watson said. “We’ll be able to increase the number of units that we advise on a persistent basis, but we’ll still retain the capacity to episodically advise other units, as the mission requires.”

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)

Editor's Note: This article by Richard Sisk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The Department of Veterans Affairs released an alarming report Friday showing that at least 60,000 veterans died by suicide between 2008 and 2017, with little sign that the crisis is abating despite suicide prevention being the VA's top priority.

Although the total population of veterans declined by 18% during that span of years, more than 6,000 veterans died by suicide annually, according to the VA's 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report.

Read More Show Less
President Donald Trump speaks during an event with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at Pratt Industries, Sunday, Sept 22, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. (Associated Press/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he discussed Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son in a call with Ukraine's president.

Trump's statement to reporters about his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky came as the Democratic leader of a key congressional panel said the pursuit of Trump's impeachment may be the "only remedy" to the situation.

Read More Show Less
"It's kind of like the equivalent of dropping a soda can into canyon and putting on a blindfold and going and finding it, because you can't just look down and see it," diver Jeff Goodreau said of finding the wreck.

The USS Eagle 56 was only five miles off the coast of Maine when it exploded.

The World War I-era patrol boat split in half, then slipped beneath the surface of the North Atlantic. The Eagle 56 had been carrying a crew of 62. Rescuers pulled 13 survivors from the water that day. It was April 23, 1945, just two weeks before the surrender of Nazi Germany.

The U.S. Navy classified the disaster as an accident, attributing the sinking to a blast in the boiler room. In 2001, that ruling was changed to reflect the sinking as a deliberate act of war, perpetuated by German submarine U-853, a u-boat belonging to Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine.

Still, despite the Navy's effort to clarify the circumstances surrounding the sinking, the Eagle 56 lingered as a mystery. The ship had sunk relatively close to shore, but efforts to locate the wreck were futile for decades. No one could find the Eagle 56, a small patrol ship that had come so close to making it back home.

Then, a group of friends and amateur divers decided to try to find the wreck in 2014. After years of fruitless dives and intensive research, New England-based Nomad Exploration Team successfully located the Eagle 56 in June 2018.

Business Insider spoke to two crew members — meat truck driver Jeff Goodreau and Massachusetts Department of Corrections officer Donald Ferrara — about their discovery.

Read More Show Less
(CIA photo)

Before the 5th Special Forces Group's Operational Detachment Alpha 595, before 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment's MH-47E Chinooks, and before the Air Force combat controllers, there were a handful of CIA officers and a buttload of cash.

Read More Show Less

The last time the world saw Marine veteran Austin Tice, he had been taken prisoner by armed men. It was unclear whether his captors were jihadists or allies of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad who were disguised as Islamic radicals.

Blindfolded and nearly out of breath, Tice spoke in Arabic before breaking into English:"Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus."

That was from a video posted on YouTube on Sept. 26, 2012, several weeks after Tice went missing near Damascus, Syria, while working as a freelance journalist for McClatchy and the Washington Post.

Now that Tice has been held in captivity for more than seven years, reporters who have regular access to President Donald Trump need to start asking him how he is going to bring Tice home.

Read More Show Less