"We are United States Marines, and for two and a quarter centuries we have defined the
standards of courage, esprit, and military prowess."
Gen. James L. Jones, USMC (CMC); 10 November 2000
"A new kind of war" bestselling author Steve Pressfield calls it in his novel "The Afghan
Campaign" and he's correct. But is his book's description of Alexander the Great's three year
campaign (329-327BC) in Afghanistan similar to what the Marines are experiencing today? So I
embedded with the Marines in order to find out how America's campaign was progressing:
Marjah - the Helmand River Valley- Kapisa Province - The Khyber Pass
2010: June... Patrol Base McElhinney with 1st Platoon, Lima Company, 3rd Bn, 6th Marines. I
spent two weeks outside of Marjah with 1st Platoon. Under 1st Lt Carl Quist and SSGT Chris
Whitman, they sent out multiple patrols daily. This is how COIN is successfully implemented;
by walking through villages, talking with the people, and gathering intelligence from the locals
who watched the almost-daily firefights.
Then up to Musa Qal'ah, with 1st Bn, 2nd Marines (LtCol Michael Manning commanding), who
sent me up to Patrol Base Griffin, the northern-most Marine outpost in Helmand Province. More
Marines making a difference: under 1st Lt Scott Cook, the locals of Karamanda rogered-up to
the Marines in a big way. The Marines and locals were working hard together to rid the area of
Taliban; I wish I could have stayed with them longer.
2009: Nawa is the success story of Afghanistan. I was with Co. C, 1st Bn, 5th Marines and went
out with them into town as Capt Gus Biggio (4th CAG), Capt Brian Huysman, and 1st Sgt David
Wilson and their enlisted Marines worked daily with the townspeople, officials, and District
Governor. With Co C driving out the Taliban after 10 days of firefights, the locals regained their entrepreneurial spirit; the markets flourished, school attendance boomed, and electrified their own town.
2008: Garmsir, some 200 miles south of Kandahar I was embedding again with Alpha Co, 1st Bn,
6th Marines, with who I'd been with twice in Ramadi. Just a day or so earlier they'd finished
a 3-week gunfight where they'd killed 400+ Taliban; fighting in the 135' summer heat. Going
out with 2nd Platoon I watched Marines who had just finished weeks of combat gently deal with
the women and children returning to their villages; later in the week, ISAF's CG Gen David
McKiernan's visited Alpha Co. and congratulated them on a job well done.
After Garmsir I linked up with 3rd MarDiv Embedded Training Team 3/5 at Camp BlackHorse.
Under the command of Col Jeff Haynes, they were mentoring the Afghan's 201st Corps.
Under Col Haynes, "Muscular Mentoring" his Marines were instructing from the field, not by
powerpoint, and the Afghan Army's 201st Corps has become the best unit in the Afghan Army.
Returning to Afghanistan in October to embed with Col Haynes's ETT again, his
counterinsurgency campaign was in full swing. While people ooh-and-ah at Marine artillery
firing their M777's, Col Haynes understood that "Clear-Hold-Build-Transition" needed the
Afghan Army's involvement to bring the locals on-board. It's their country, Haynes told me, and
as the ANA is given control of their own battle-space, the locals will begin to see they have a
government worth supporting.
2007: I flew over the Hindu Kush to Jalalabad, where I linked up with LtCol Scott Fosdal's
ETT's. The mission was to check the local Afghan Border Police's arms - ammunition - which
entailed climbing up into the mountains where the ABP were guarding the Afghan-Pak border
- exhausting! Later we stopped a camel caravan smuggling goods in from Pakistan; nothing
appears to have changed since Sikundar-Gul marched through here in 327 BC.
On Holy Saturday we drove north, along the Kunar River, where were outside of Asadabad
we were attacked by the Taliban within 30 minutes of our arrival. The tiny Marine contingent
fought off the attack, aided by the young and aggressive members of the Afghan Army.