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

Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst- Insurance

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Multi-skilled graphic designer ...

Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solicitor

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solic...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A CCTV camera is seen in front of a large poster opposite in central London  

Home Office is creating more powers to turn everyone into suspects – but leave us no safer

Shami Chakrabarti
 

David Mellor has been exposed as an awful man, but should he have been?

Simon Kelner
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
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches