Marines in Marjah Face Full Blown Insurgency

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 6 months ago

Lance Cpl. Wesley Samuels, of Winter Haven, Fla., with the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines’ Echo Company, fires at Taliban insurgents during as gunbattle in Marjah, Afghanistan.

AP reporter Todd Pitman and I have exchanged e-mail before during his embeds in Ramadi.  He felt at the time that a comment he left here at TCJ might have gotten him into trouble with AP for potentially representing formal AP position.  Hopefully this was an earlier time and a different atmosphere, before AP learned the value of interacting with the new media.  Or have they?  Does AP still cling to its policy of disallowing any copying of text into posts?  In either case, while AP might have poor policies, Todd Pitman is a very good reporter and his most recent article provides anecdotal accounts and some analysis of the situation the Marines face in Marjah.

MARJAH, Afghanistan — The young Marine had a simple question for the farmer with the white beard: Have you seen any Taliban today?

The answer came within seconds — from insurgents hiding nearby who ended the conversation with bursts of automatic rifle fire that sent deadly rounds cracking overhead.

It was a telling coincidence — and the start of yet another gunbattle in Marjah, the southern poppy-producing hub which U.S. forces wrested from Taliban control in February to restore government rule.

Eight months on, the Taliban are still here in force, waging a full-blown guerrilla insurgency that rages daily across a bomb-riddled landscape of agricultural fields and irrigation trenches.

As U.S. involvement in the war enters its 10th year, the failure to pacify this town raises questions about the effectiveness of America’s overall strategy. Similarly crucial operations are now under way in neighboring Kandahar province, the Taliban’s birthplace.

There are signs the situation in Marjah is beginning to improve, but “it’s still a very tough fight,” said Capt. Chuck Anklam, whose Marine company has lost three men since arriving in July. “We’re in firefights all over, every day.”

“There’s no area that’s void of enemy. But there’s no area void of Marines and (Afghan forces) either,” said Anklam, 34, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “It’s a constant presence both sides are trying to exert.”

That day, militants in his zone of operations alone had attacked Marines in four separate locations by mid-afternoon.

[ … ]

… the end of Taliban control in Marjah has sown the seeds of an entrenched guerrilla war that has tied down at least two U.S. Marine battalions and hordes of Afghan police and army troops.

The result, so far at least: Residents say the town is more insecure than ever.

[ … ]

Coalition forces are also trying to win over the population by organizing the delivery of solar panels to businessmen, and refurbishing shops, wells and mosques, Anklam said. But residents are weary: One Marine simply trying to give away a lollipop to children at a checkpoint tried three times before finding one who would take it.

Todd includes this nugget of gold.

Anklam has spread the Marines of Echo company as much as possible. The squads are now based at 13 small outposts — twice as many as in July. As a result, Marines say that although firefights occur daily, violence has decreased overall.

Several observations are in order.  First, to say that the insurgency has “tied down” ANA and ANP probably embellishes what they have accomplished, which has been problematic at best (as we have discussed many times in the ANA and ANP categories).  It is the Marines who are being tied down.  The ANA is at the very best being mentored by the Marines, at the worst are high on opium or hashish.

Second, as if we needed any more indication that the British notion of the government in a box doesn’t work, Todd’s article should be about the last nail in the coffin of that debacle of a strategy (and make no mistake about it, we brought this “government in a box” to Marjah at the behest of the British, in a tip of the hat to their approach to COIN).

Finally, notice what the Marines are doing.  A single company is spread out at 13 outposts.  A single infantry company.  This is remarkable.  It’s a tribute to the tactics employed by the U.S. Marines, and should be an embarrassment to the folks who spend all of their time at FOBs, including the SOF boys with ZZ Top beards wearing backwards ball caps and T-shirts who ride to the fight in helicopters and bed down back at the base after a hot meal and shower.  They are adding  nothing to the campaign.

It isn’t the work of the U.S. Marines that is in question.  Given time, they will win.  The questions are: (1) do they have it, (2) will we give them the resources, and (3) will we get out of the way and let them do what they have to do?


  1. On October 12, 2010 at 1:03 pm, Jon Hansen said:

    Mr Smith. I found the Captain’s Journal about a year ago and I would like to commend you on your work- your passion is clearly evident. I spent my career as an Army Combat Arms Officer and have a son deployed as an infantry officer right now. As much as I enjoy your enlightening and thought-provoking articles, your bias against SOF has become too much. I was not a SOF operator but had many friends who were. SOF operators are some of our finest soldiers, marines and sailors, and provide invaluable capabilities that conventional forces do not. As much as I agree that SOF forces have not always been used correctly in this war, I also know that the operators are top of the line military personnel and don’t need to be degraded by someone writing about “ZZ Top beards”, “backward ball caps”, and implying that they don’t spend time in the field. Are they sometimes cocky? Certainly, and they have to be with the missions they are expected to do. Are they professional? Most definitely. There are excellent, professional soldiers, marines and sailors in every type of unit, conventional or unconventional and personal attacks are not needed. I look forward to continuing to read The Journal.

  2. On October 12, 2010 at 10:04 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    First things first. Give thanks to your son for us for his service. Also, share with us if you can his perspectives on what he is experiencing.

    Next. The phrase ZZ Top beards doesn’t come from me. I believe Andrew Exum has used it (although it has been a while since I visited his site), Christian Bleuer, and maybe Josh Foust. It marks these men out.

    I understand your perspective but I guess I’ll have to push back. I don’t have a bias against SOF. I do indeed have a bias against how they have been used, and the turning of the GPF into policemen and the SOF into raid troops. This bifurcation was largely the brainchild of General McChrystal, and it has not, in my opinion, been good for either the Army or the SOF troopers.

    Neither has it been good for the organizational makeup of the forces. I don’t agree with SOCOM, and it is my opinion that all SOF should be matrixed to infantry. Your son should be commanding some of them right now. The GPF should be doing raids, and the SOF should be engaging in talking with the population, and the better these two parts of the force are integrated, the better off we will be.

    To be sure, some of the billets and qualifications are stunning and remarkable. Take Army combat diver, for instance. And for such specialized billets, it might be necessary to martrix them out from their regular units. But for most SOF it should be possible to have them better integrated into infantry.

    As for what they are doing, it isn’t helping the campaign. See:

    Notice how effective it was to have the same men who performed the combat operations stand there and tell the village about it the next day, explain why it happened, and confront the elders about it.

    Every time a SOF raid happens, it’s yet another opportunity for the insurgents to grab the narrative because the SOF whisks away as quickly as it is whisked in. The infantry is left to deal with the consequences.

    Finally, the early combat near Marjah explained why it’s better to matrix them to infantry. The Marine Air Ground Task Force concept controlled all assets in its AO, as it should. It makes the campaign more effective. And it’s also why Generals Rodriguez and McChrystal didn’t approve of the concept. They wanted to pull the SOF as they wanted, use them whenever and wherever they wanted, and do so without even so much as informing the Marine command.

    No, I don’t have a bias against specialized billets. I do have a bias against taking those billets and sending them to a different command because they happen to be a little bit different from everybody else.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

You are currently reading "Marines in Marjah Face Full Blown Insurgency", entry #5606 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Marine Corps,Marines in Helmand and was published October 11th, 2010 by Herschel Smith.

If you're interested in what else the The Captain's Journal has to say, you might try thumbing through the archives and visiting the main index, or; perhaps you would like to learn more about TCJ.

26th MEU (10)
Abu Muqawama (12)
ACOG (2)
ACOGs (1)
Afghan National Army (36)
Afghan National Police (17)
Afghanistan (679)
Afghanistan SOFA (4)
Agriculture in COIN (3)
AGW (1)
Air Force (32)
Air Power (9)
al Qaeda (83)
Ali al-Sistani (1)
America (10)
Ammunition (44)
Animals in War (4)
Ansar al Sunna (15)
Anthropology (3)
Antonin Scalia (1)
AR-15s (120)
Arghandab River Valley (1)
Arlington Cemetery (2)
Army (59)
Assassinations (2)
Assault Weapon Ban (26)
Australian Army (5)
Azerbaijan (4)
Backpacking (2)
Badr Organization (8)
Baitullah Mehsud (21)
Basra (17)
BATFE (64)
Battle of Bari Alai (2)
Battle of Wanat (17)
Battle Space Weight (3)
Bin Laden (7)
Blogroll (2)
Blogs (7)
Body Armor (18)
Books (3)
Border War (8)
Brady Campaign (1)
Britain (31)
British Army (35)
Camping (4)
Canada (2)
Castle Doctrine (1)
Caucasus (6)
Center For a New American Security (8)
Charity (3)
China (10)
Christmas (9)
CIA (25)
Civilian National Security Force (3)
Col. Gian Gentile (9)
Combat Outposts (3)
Combat Video (2)
Concerned Citizens (6)
Constabulary Actions (3)
Coolness Factor (2)
COP Keating (4)
Corruption in COIN (4)
Council on Foreign Relations (1)
Counterinsurgency (216)
DADT (2)
David Rohde (1)
Defense Contractors (2)
Department of Defense (135)
Department of Homeland Security (19)
Disaster Preparedness (3)
Distributed Operations (5)
Dogs (8)
Donald Trump (2)
Drone Campaign (3)
EFV (3)
Egypt (12)
El Salvador (1)
Embassy Security (1)
Enemy Spotters (1)
Expeditionary Warfare (17)
F-22 (2)
F-35 (1)
Fallujah (17)
Far East (3)
Fathers and Sons (1)
Favorite (1)
Fazlullah (3)
FBI (20)
Featured (178)
Federal Firearms Laws (18)
Financing the Taliban (2)
Firearms (809)
Football (1)
Force Projection (35)
Force Protection (4)
Force Transformation (1)
Foreign Policy (27)
Fukushima Reactor Accident (6)
Ganjgal (1)
Garmsir (1)
general (14)
General Amos (1)
General James Mattis (1)
General McChrystal (42)
General McKiernan (6)
General Rodriguez (3)
General Suleimani (7)
Georgia (19)
Google (1)
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (1)
Gun Control (674)
Guns (1,307)
Guns In National Parks (3)
Haditha Roundup (10)
Haiti (2)
Haqqani Network (9)
Hate Mail (8)
Hekmatyar (1)
Heroism (4)
Hezbollah (12)
High Capacity Magazines (12)
High Value Targets (9)
Homecoming (1)
Homeland Security (1)
Horses (1)
Humor (15)
ICOS (1)
IEDs (7)
Immigration (63)
India (10)
Infantry (4)
Information Warfare (2)
Infrastructure (2)
Intelligence (23)
Intelligence Bulletin (6)
Iran (169)
Iraq (378)
Iraq SOFA (23)
Islamic Facism (53)
Islamists (81)
Israel (18)
Jaish al Mahdi (21)
Jalalabad (1)
Japan (2)
Jihadists (80)
John Nagl (5)
Joint Intelligence Centers (1)
JRTN (1)
Kabul (1)
Kajaki Dam (1)
Kamdesh (9)
Kandahar (12)
Karachi (7)
Kashmir (2)
Khost Province (1)
Khyber (11)
Knife Blogging (3)
Korea (4)
Korengal Valley (3)
Kunar Province (20)
Kurdistan (3)
Language in COIN (5)
Language in Statecraft (1)
Language Interpreters (2)
Lashkar-e-Taiba (2)
Law Enforcement (3)
Lawfare (6)
Leadership (5)
Lebanon (6)
Leon Panetta (2)
Let Them Fight (2)
Libya (14)
Lines of Effort (3)
Littoral Combat (8)
Logistics (50)
Long Guns (1)
Lt. Col. Allen West (2)
Marine Corps (249)
Marines in Bakwa (1)
Marines in Helmand (67)
Marjah (4)
Media (39)
Memorial Day (3)
Mexican Cartels (24)
Mexico (32)
Michael Yon (5)
Micromanaging the Military (7)
Middle East (1)
Military Blogging (26)
Military Contractors (4)
Military Equipment (24)
Militia (5)
Mitt Romney (3)
Monetary Policy (1)
Moqtada al Sadr (2)
Mosul (4)
Mountains (23)
MRAPs (1)
Mullah Baradar (1)
Mullah Fazlullah (1)
Mullah Omar (3)
Musa Qala (4)
Music (16)
Muslim Brotherhood (6)
Nation Building (2)
National Internet IDs (1)
National Rifle Association (23)
NATO (15)
Navy (22)
Navy Corpsman (1)
NCOs (3)
News (1)
NGOs (2)
Nicholas Schmidle (2)
Now Zad (19)
NSA (3)
NSA James L. Jones (6)
Nuclear (56)
Nuristan (8)
Obama Administration (218)
Offshore Balancing (1)
Operation Alljah (7)
Operation Khanjar (14)
Ossetia (7)
Pakistan (165)
Paktya Province (1)
Palestine (5)
Patriotism (6)
Patrolling (1)
Pech River Valley (11)
Personal (43)
Petraeus (14)
Pictures (1)
Piracy (13)
Pistol (2)
Pizzagate (21)
Police (321)
Police in COIN (3)
Policy (15)
Politics (371)
Poppy (2)
PPEs (1)
Prisons in Counterinsurgency (12)
Project Gunrunner (20)
PRTs (1)
Qatar (1)
Quadrennial Defense Review (2)
Quds Force (13)
Quetta Shura (1)
RAND (3)
Recommended Reading (14)
Refueling Tanker (1)
Religion (139)
Religion and Insurgency (19)
Reuters (1)
Rick Perry (4)
Rifles (1)
Roads (4)
Rolling Stone (1)
Ron Paul (1)
ROTC (1)
Rules of Engagement (75)
Rumsfeld (1)
Russia (29)
Sabbatical (1)
Sangin (1)
Saqlawiyah (1)
Satellite Patrols (2)
Saudi Arabia (4)
Scenes from Iraq (1)
Second Amendment (221)
Second Amendment Quick Hits (2)
Secretary Gates (9)
Sharia Law (3)
Shura Ittehad-ul-Mujahiden (1)
SIIC (2)
Sirajuddin Haqqani (1)
Small Wars (72)
Snipers (9)
Sniveling Lackeys (2)
Soft Power (4)
Somalia (8)
Sons of Afghanistan (1)
Sons of Iraq (2)
Special Forces (26)
Squad Rushes (1)
State Department (19)
Statistics (1)
Sunni Insurgency (10)
Support to Infantry Ratio (1)
Supreme Court (3)
Survival (16)
SWAT Raids (54)
Syria (38)
Tactical Drills (1)
Tactical Gear (3)
Taliban (167)
Taliban Massing of Forces (4)
Tarmiyah (1)
TBI (1)
Technology (16)
Tehrik-i-Taliban (78)
Terrain in Combat (1)
Terrorism (93)
Thanksgiving (7)
The Anbar Narrative (23)
The Art of War (5)
The Fallen (1)
The Long War (20)
The Surge (3)
The Wounded (13)
Thomas Barnett (1)
Transnational Insurgencies (5)
Tribes (5)
TSA (15)
TSA Ineptitude (11)
TTPs (1)
U.S. Border Patrol (5)
U.S. Border Security (14)
U.S. Sovereignty (17)
UAVs (2)
UBL (4)
Ukraine (3)
Uncategorized (46)
Universal Background Check (3)
Unrestricted Warfare (4)
USS Iwo Jima (2)
USS San Antonio (1)
Uzbekistan (1)
V-22 Osprey (4)
Veterans (2)
Vietnam (1)
War & Warfare (215)
War & Warfare (40)
War Movies (3)
War Reporting (18)
Wardak Province (1)
Warriors (6)
Waziristan (1)
Weapons and Tactics (59)
West Point (1)
Winter Operations (1)
Women in Combat (19)
WTF? (1)
Yemen (1)

April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006

about · archives · contact · register

Copyright © 2006-2018 Captain's Journal. All rights reserved.