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

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The economy expanded by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2014  

British economy: Government hails the latest GDP figures, but there is still room for skepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Comedy queen: Miranda Hart has said that she is excited about working on the new film  

There is no such thing as a middle-class laugh

David Lister
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little