US Marines may return to Afghanistan to advise ground forces

During a Marine Corps Association and Foundation awards event in November 2016, Love remarked, “There is change in the air…There is a new mission we’ve picked up in the Marine Corps. We are going to repurpose the infantry regiments against a new mission back in some familiar territory in Afghanistan, a province we’ve been to before and a location we’ve been to before.”

The new mission he’s referring to entails Marines advising police forces and the Afghan National Security Forces. Previously Marines had served in the southwest Taliban stronghold of Helmand, while a team of advisers also worked in  Lashkar Gah, Helmand’s capital.

Love told Military.com that the service  has “had advisers in Afghanistan ever since we concluded our major operations there, so the Marine Corps is going to pick up another one of those advisory missions that the Army’s been doing…So the Army has been doing it, and the Marine Corps is going to go in and take over one of their teams for them,” he said.

Colonel Martin Wetterauer, commander of the 8th Marine Regiment reiterated Love’s statements saying, “Second Marine Division regiments are going back to Afghanistan in April,” and that, “Sixth Marines is going to be put against the southwest mission.”

The unit, to be called Task Force South West, will reportedly consist of Marines from the II Marines Expeditionary Force, with Brig. Gen. Roger Turner Jr. at the helm.

Currently there are about 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan, a marked change from the 5,000 US President Barack Obama envisioned on the campaign trail in an effort to scale back Washington’s ground forces. The service was also a key element in Obama’s troop surge in Afghanistan in 2009.

The troops are primarily tasked with assisting and advising Afghan forces in key areas of the 13-year war, including Jalalabad, Kandahar Bagram and Kabul. In some areas Daesh has joined forces with the Taliban, taking advantage of a void left when NATO and US troops were withdrawn.

Andrew Wilder, of the US Institute of Peace remarked, “When you go from 100,000 troops down to about 10,000, there should be no surprise that there’s a consequence in the security situation.”

Washington’s strategy behind swelling the numbers of Marines is not clear.