Task Force Southwest – Marines Headed Back to Helmand Province

By Faye Higbee

A poor performance by Afghanistan’s security forces in Helmand Province after a pullout of US Marines in 2014, has prompted the Pentagon to once again send in the Marines. The new deployment of 300 Marines will be called “Task Force Southwest.” They are training for what the Corps believes strongly is a “high risk” assignment. They are set to deploy this spring.

Helmand Province, Kandahar Province, and Farah Province are  the epicenters of Afghanistan’s drug industry. The resurgence of the Taliban over control of those areas is the reason for returning.

“Helmand, as you pointed out, is important to the Taliban because as a narco-insurgency, this is where they get their money. In the last year, it became apparent that, instead of advising on an ad hoc basis, we needed to go in there with a permanent structure. … The Marine Corps has deep experience in Helmand. They have a lot of skin in the game.” Gen John Nicholson Jr, Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan

The General was asked yesterday why US Airstrikes didn’t just blow up all the poppy fields and be done with it.

Sen. Angus King asked, “if the fields in Afghanistan were terrorist camps, killing four people an hour in the United States, they’d be gone” (referring to the heroin epidemic in the US).

The General responded that there were other factors at play, including the economy of Afghanistan.

Casualty in Sangin

A U.S. Special Forces soldier was seriously wounded in Sangin just yesterday morning. His condition is not known. His base was attacked and details were not available, but he was said to be in surgery as of yesterday morning. His name was not released.

This video is from Task Force Southwest transition training:

Sof News reported [the entire article is comprehensive and can be viewed at the link at the end of this article],

Over the past two years the ANDSF have performed miserably in Helmand province. The army and police are very under strength in personnel. Many of the soldiers and police that are on the books in the region are actually ‘ghost soldiers’ or ‘ghost police’ – meaning they don’t exist but their commanders are collecting their paychecks. Corruption and bad leadership are a few of the many problems contributing to the security situation in the province. Helmand is the biggest poppy-growing region of Afghanistan and many Afghan security personnel fall under the influence of the drug lords. Drug eradication in Afghanistan is the lowest in a decade – primarily because of the poor security situation in Helmand…

…Soldiers of the 215th are comprised almost completely of personnel NOT from Helmand province. Even if the soldier had a commander that would allow him to go on leave – his family home is likely in another part of Afghanistan and getting there is extremely dangerous. Many commanders will only grant leave if the soldier or policeman gives up part of his pay. This is a big cause of members of the ANDSF leaving their jobs before their contract has finished – going absent without leave (AWOL). Much of the money allocated for food is stolen by the Afghan commanders – leaving the lower ranking police or soldier with an inadequate diet. Combine the problems of bad food, horrible leadership, stolen pay, no leave, constant violence, poor MEDEVAC support, high casualties, and ghost soldiers and police and you have a province where the policemen and soldiers have low morale and very little fighting spirit.

All of that came with the Obama troop draw down in 2014. The new Task Force Southwest will be under the command of Brigadier General Roger Turner, who does have some experience in Helmand province, according to SOF NEWS. Read more here.