By the end of April, the Marines will be in Helmand province as Task Force Southwest, replacing the Army’s Task Force Forge. During their nine months in Helmand, the Marines will train the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps and the 505th Zone National Police in marksmanship, indirect fire and small-unit tactics and other skills, Marine Corps officials said.
The advise-and-assist mission can give Afghan troops and police “the support they need to reverse the momentum of the Taliban in that important province that sits astride the critical ‘Ring Road’ that connects the southern and western parts of the country to Kabul,” Petraeus said.
To counter the Taliban’s momentum on the battlefield, the U.S. should make clear that its commitment to Afghanistan is open-ended instead of setting arbitrary dates to withdraw U.S. troops, he said.
“I think that was one of the problems the Obama administration had: Announcing withdrawals that came and went and really made no sense from any kind of point of view,” Bergen said. “They tended to undercut the government. They also, obviously, were really helpful to the morale of the Taliban.”
Since most U.S. troops left Afghanistan three years ago, the Taliban have captured much of southern Afghanistan, including Sangin, where nearly 50 Marines have died in fighting through the years.
“They’re winning the war,” Forrest said. “They’re winning actual terrain and population control. They have no incentive to actually go to the table, especially as they are getting additional support from other malign regional actors, such as Russia and Iran.”
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