General Discusses Marine Deployment to Afghanistan
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 26, 2008 Nearly a third of the 3,200 Marines scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan next month will be stationed in NATO’s southern and western regional commands to train Afghan security forces to face upcoming threats, a top U.S. military official said today.
The bulk of the 1,000 outbound Marine trainers will be stationed at Regional Command South, part of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, and a “little bit” of the unit will deploy to Regional Command West, said Army Maj. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 82, based at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.
“That was the commander of ISAF’s request and desire, and I think it was mainly focused on what he thought was the biggest threat this coming spring,” Rodriguez told reporters during a Pentagon news conference.
Regional Command South, where an additional 2,200 Marines will land next month to assist counterinsurgency operations, controls task forces in the provinces of Uruzgan, Helmand, Kandahar and Zabul. Regional Command West includes Herat province, a swath of land along Afghanistan’s border with Iran.
Rodriguez, who also commanders NATO’s Regional Command East and the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, acknowledged that insurgent activity tends to increase in spring months as weather in Afghanistan moderates. The general said, however, that he does not characterize the uptick in enemy attacks as an “offensive.”
“We're expecting the same type of things that (insurgents) did this year,” he said. “They will try to attack the Afghan security forces and the Afghan government leadership by both (improvised explosive devices and car bombs), as well as suicide bombers.”
Rodriguez noted that such tactics have proven counterproductive in his area of operations, where civilians have responded to attacks by turning against insurgent perpetrators and toward the Afghan government. But he conceded that military officials expect such attacks will continue to pose a threat in Afghanistan.
Asked if an influx of weapons or support was flowing into Afghanistan from Iran, the general said, “We’ve seen a little bit of that. It's really been militarily insignificant, but we're always on the lookout for that.”
Today’s briefing provided further clarity on how the additional 3,200 Marines will be distributed in Afghanistan. The Defense Department’s Jan. 15 announcement of the decision to send the additional Marines noted that President Bush approved the deployment as recommended by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.
“This extraordinary, one-time deployment involves approximately 3,200 personnel and will enable commanders in Afghanistan to enhance the training of increasingly-capable Afghan National Security Forces to build on the military successes of 2007 and to expand the gains of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force mission,” the DoD announcement stated.
The roughly 2,200 Marines to aid counterinsurgency operations are with 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C. The Marine trainers are with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, based at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center, at Twentynine Palms, Calif.