Gates Visits Marines on Camp Leatherneck
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan, Dec. 8, 2010 Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today noted the value of the work the 1st Marine Logistics Group does here for the war effort, and extended his personal thanks.
Speaking to hundreds of Marines at this base in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Gates said the Marines, as always, are fighting the toughest fight, and that the logistics and maintenance support they provide for combat forces “is critically important as to the successes that we’re enjoying.”
In addition to thanking the Marines, and as he has done during other troop visits this week, Gates said he’s well aware that it’s especially difficult for deployed servicemembers to be away from their families during the holiday season, and that it’s tough on their families as well.
“I just wanted to ask you, the next time you’re in touch with them -- through e-mail or however you communicate –- to thank them personally from me for their support to you and for helping us make the success we have here in the south,” he said.
The Marines have made a tremendous difference since arriving over the summer as part of the 30,000 additional U.S. forces President Barack Obama sent to Afghanistan as part of the strategy he announced late last year, Gates said, not only stopping Taliban momentum, but also reversing that momentum in many areas.
Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Richard P. Mills, commander of the International Security Assistance Force’s Regional Command Southwest, also was on hand. He told reporters that after successes in Helmand’s Marjah and Nawa districts, the Sangin district is the current focus of clearing operations -- and that the enemy knows it may be his last stand in the province.
The situation in Sangin, the general said, is about the same as it was in Marjah four or five months ago, and the enemy is determined.
“You have to understand that Sangin is the last piece of valuable real estate the insurgent is even able to be around,” Mills said, noting that it’s where insurgents run the drug trade that finances their operations.
“So he’s got to hold on to Sangin,” he added. “If he loses Sangin, all he has left is the desert and some of the mountains. And he can’t survive there.”
Sangin is a tough fight, and will be a fight for a while, the general said. “But it’s a fight we will win,” he added.
The people of Helmand appreciate the security and freedom of movement they now have through most of the province, Mills said, and they understand why the coalition forces are there.
“Like any people, they want peace,” he added. “They want it as quickly as possible, and they want to return to their normal lives. I fully understand it, and we’re hoping to give them the opportunity.”