Tuesday, November 1, 2011
The commander taking charge of the Marines in Afghanistan next year says there will be changes to adapt to a different role in the region.
President Obama’s decision to draw down troops in Afghanistan will affect the Marines, though exact numbers aren’t known yet.
Major General Charles "Mark" Gurganus will lead a headquarters team of about 600 people from Camp Pendleton next spring, for a year long deployment.
Gurganus served in Al Anbar Province before the drawdown in Iraq. He said the challenge in Iraq was different from the situation facing the Marines in Afghanistan, where tribal loyalties are more fragmented.
He said the Marines in Helmand Province will shift gradually from manning forward operating bases to acting as advisors to Afghan security forces.
“Because numbers are going to be reduced,” he said, “so there’ll be a requirement for less patrol bases. As we work with the Afghans, where they lay down their forces, that’ll define where we are with advisors, where we are with the rest of our forces.”
Gurganus said training at Camp Pendleton and 29 Palms will build new cultural skills as advisors as well as combat leaders.
Last winter, the 3rd Battalion 5th Regiment out of Camp Pendleton suffered unprecedented casualties. But most of the recent violence in Afghanistan has been further north, outside the Marines’ area of operation.
About 18,000 Marines are serving in Helmand Province now. Gurganus said he doesn’t know how many there will be by the end of next year.