Kim Sengupta: Marines give their verdict on Obama's troop surge

A surge in US troops has been welcomed on the front line. Our correspondent hears the reaction

Share
Related Topics

Barack Obama's decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan was met with satisfaction yesterday from the US Marines who are set to take the lead role in the new string of offensives about to unroll in Helmand province.

The Marines, who have been at the cutting edge of the fighting since their arrival in southern Afghanistan, are about to embark on a number of operations that were put on hold as the president mulled over his decision. Colonel Martin Wetterauer, a battalion commander, said he was content with an approach that aims to help forces hold on to territory after it is won. He said: "The extra troops will mean that we can carry out our operations quicker, make more areas under Afghan government control, and also speed up the training of Afghan security forces, which would also mean that we can leave this country earlier having finished our mission.

"At the moment the Taliban claim that they control large portions of the Helmand river valley. If we can move them it will not only mean that they have less control, but it would be something of great symbolic significance for the Afghan people as well."

There are already around 11,000 American troops in Helmand, most of them Marines, with another 9,000 due to arrive soon. That force will easily outnumber the British contingent of 9,200, which is being augmented by 500 more in the coming weeks. In the past, a lack of numbers has prevented British forces from keeping vital ground they have taken. The plans in place now involve clearing Taliban forces out of areas under their control and then holding them, a process that would get an enormous boost from further reinforcements.

The reinforcements were welcomed by rank-and-file Marines involved in frontline action. "We need the tools to do the job, it is as simple as that. The extra forces coming would certainly help," said Gunner Sergeant Will Abernathy, a veteran of 14 years who is based at the American Camp Leatherneck.

"We know the problem here in Helmand. We Marines don't give up ground, we hold it, and that is what we are going to keep on doing. This is not a reflection on the British, who did very well, fought bravely. But at the end of the day, numbers count."

A veteran of two tours of Iraq, Sgt Abernathy finishes his tour in a week having been based at Naw Zad, a town that has seen fierce clashes and parts of which remain in Taliban hands. "It can be turned around, but it'll take a lot of effort and a lot of resources, which is why the extra forces are welcome.

"It will be more difficult than Iraq. It'll take about 10 years to sort this out, so I'll be back here. Now, I am now just glad I will be going home."

Sergeant Matthew Kramer, also an Iraq veteran and a Marine for 13 years, is a month into his tour. "We have been waiting for the president's decision. I am certainly glad it has come," he said. "We just want to get the job done and then leave the Afghans to themselves."

Just how soon the Marines go home will depend on how quickly the Afghan security forces are trained up. The US forces at Camp Leatherneck are training the Afghan police, who it is hoped will act as the lynchpin of a civic society.

"We have all these problems, one cannot deny that," said Lieutenant Colonel Shami Zakarullah. "But the training has been very poor in the past, some of the men have not received much training at all. That is why the course here in Leatherneck is so valuable. There should be more of these courses and I hope that the extra troops being sent by the Americans will help this. It is in the interest of the West to send more troops, stabilise the situation. It will help end the war."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

I saw the immigration lies a mile off - and now nobody can deny it

Nigel Farage
The Uber app allows passengers to hail a taxi with a smartphone  

Who wouldn’t like a sharing economy? Well, me, for one

Mary Dejevsky
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game