Marine Force Protection in Garmsir?

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 7 months ago

In the Afghanistan town of Darvishan, Garmsir District, an incident occurred between the townsfolk and the Marines.

Anti-American violence eased Wednesday in the southern Afghanistan town of Darvishan, where the Taliban fanned demonstrations following rumors of desecration of the Koran in a U.S.-led operation.

U.S. military officials said there was no truth to rumors that the Islamic holy book had been mistreated, but protests had turned deadly before U.S. and Afghan officials met with community and tribal elders to diffuse tensions and security forces discouraged potential demonstrators from entering the town.

Six Afghan civilians were killed about 20 miles south of Darvishan when a large group of villagers heading for the Garmsir District center failed to heed repeated warnings to turn back and tried to force their way through a military checkpoint, U.S. Marine officers said.

One person was shot by a Marine and five others were shot by Afghan soldiers, officials said.

An Afghan policeman was critically wounded Wednesday when suspected Taliban gunmen ambushed him on the outskirts of Darvishan as he drove to work.

“It was generally calm here today,” Lt. Col. John McDonough, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, said at a staff briefing at Combat Outpost Delhi, on the edge of Darvishan. “Let’s work to keep it that way.”

U.S. Marines were pelted with rocks and sprayed with gunfire Tuesday in Darvishan as Taliban-led rioting roiled the town, which is located in southern Helmand province. One Afghan gunman was killed by a Marine sniper. No Marines were killed or seriously injured.

Pelted with rocks and sprayed with gunfire.  A followup Reuters report was a little more specific concerning the circumstances surrounding this event.

The incident, which took place on Wednesday but was not reported until Friday, was the second demonstration to turn violent in two days in Helmand’s Garmsir district, suggesting mounting civil unrest in a part of the country where U.S. Marines under NATO command made major advances last year.

“ANA and ISAF forces warned a crowd of between 200 and 400 assembled civilians to keep its distance from the outpost,” a NATO statement said, referring to the Afghan National Army and NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

ISAF is manned in the area by U.S. Marines.

“A number of civilians in the crowd disregarded instructions, resulting in forces firing warning shots. Deliberative escalation of force procedures were followed, but one individual continued to ignore instructions, striking members of the combined force with a stick,” the statement said.

Lieutenant-Colonel Todd Breasseale said both Afghan troops and the U.S. Marines subsequently fired at the crowd. An investigation was under way to determine which force’s bullets had struck each the five people who were wounded.

Civilian casualties caused by NATO troops are one of the most emotive issues in Afghanistan’s eight-year-old conflict.

The incident came a day after another violent demonstration in Garmsir. During that earlier demonstration, U.S. Marines say they fired only at a sniper, who had shot into their base. Afghan officials say Afghan troops killed eight protesters and wounded 13 who were trying to storm a government building.

Afghan and U.S. officials say the initial unrest was prompted by rumors that U.S. troops had defaced a holy book during a raid. U.S. and Afghan officials met with locals in the area to restore calm and deny the rumors in strong terms.

“A lot of this came from a massive Taliban-initiated hoax,” Breasseale said. “People started behaving dangerously and unfortunately things like this happen.”

Dawood Ahmadi, spokesman for Helmand governor Gulab Mangal, said Wednesday’s demonstration had taken place outside a base where U.S. and Afghan officials were discussing the unrest from the day before.

He said Taliban infiltrators in Wednesday’s crowd fired at the U.S. and Afghan troops, prompting the Afghans to return fire. The NATO statement made no mention of shots fired from the crowd.

Or more correctly, it appears that there were at least two different incidents similar in nature.  Either way, several things jump out of the reports and I would offer the following observations concerning the events and the Marines’ reaction.  First, there is nothing new about insurgent-instigated chaos.  This kind of thing occurred in Iraq too, and in the Anbar Province, it was dealt a quick blow whenever and wherever it happened.

Second, the Taliban feel utterly protected by being amidst the population.  While it may be backed with all of the nice intentions mankind can muster, the unintended consequences of less robust rules of engagement are that more noncombatants die.  Many, if not most, of these townsfolk would never have been there if they had believed that they were in mortal danger, and the Taliban wouldn’t have been there to instigate the event(s) if we were giving chase to them and they were running for their lives.

When townsfolk can pelt the Marines with rocks and Taliban fighters can run amok in the crowds, U.S. forces are not respected.  It’s an ominous sign – that the most feared fighting force on earth, the 911 forces of America, the most deadly, rapid and mobile strike forces of any nation anywhere, can be pelted with rocks and hit with sticks without any fear whatsoever.  This isn’t likely to ensure belief by the population that they will be “protected” by our forces.  So much for effective counterinsurgency viz. Field Manual FM 3-24.  Oh, and as for attempting to find out who actually shot who in this “investigation,” we have yet another instance of flag and staff level officers trying to micromanage the campaign.  Let me state in the clearest possible terms – IT DOESN’T MATTER.

As for more robust rules of engagement, hearken back to Recon by Fire and the informative video I posted more than two years ago.



  • Aristekrat

    My compliments on your commentary on Afghanistan. I’m actually politically liberal and only stumbled across this place due to a paper I’m writing. However, I’ve been surprised to find that a normally disreputable news source (a blog, especially a partisan blog) has been generally quite intelligent and reasonable, even if I don’t necessarily end up agreeing with your conclusions.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Force Projection,Force Protection,Marine Corps,Rules of Engagement and was published January 18th, 2010 by Herschel Smith.

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