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

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron visiting a primary school last year  

The only choice in schools is between the one you want and the ones you don’t

Jane Merrick
Zoë Ball says having her two children was the best thing ever to happen to her  

Start a family – you’ll never have to go out again

John Mullin
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn