December 05, 2007

Gates to USMC: No Afghanistan for you!

Sorry Marines, you're staying in Anbar:

Senior Pentagon and military officials said today that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has decided against a proposal for shifting Marine Corps forces from Iraq to take the lead in American operations in Afghanistan.

Mr. Gates told top Marine Corps officials and his senior aides that the situation in western Iraq, where the marines now operate in Anbar Province, remains too volatile to contemplate such a significant change in how the ground combat mission here is shared by the Army and Marine Corps.

Charlie was surprised at the strong negative reaction this proposal received when it was first floated. The Army non-plussed, at best. One can't help but think the Commandant overplayed his hand on this one. What happened to the propaganda machine second only to Stalin?

As an aside, CMC continues to irritate Charlie to no end. Comments like these get him no love:

Conway hinted at those differences, saying Marines prefer serving under fire in a combat zone to performing nation-building duties in Iraq. He said that in his meeting with Gates on this subject last week, Gates understood Conway's thinking.

"He's heard anecdotal reports that lance corporals are complaining that they don't have anybody to shoot" in the newly peaceful Anbar, where most Marines are operating, Conway said. "But that doesn't drive strategic thinking, of course."

If CMC wants to send Marines to Afghanistan so they can shoot people, he'd be a great dinner date for Bomber McNeill. But if he wants to win in Iraq, maybe we shouldn't we give up the cumulative Anbar time the Corps is accumulating too quickly (even with rotations, guys are gaining useful experience and building personal relationships). (Charlie realizes she's changing her tune about this...but she does still love the MAGTF.)

Then again, realigning the theaters might help rationalize some of the deployment policies, especially for the Army where it seems that time in one AO guarantees future deployment to the other. And of course, we're due for a new SecDef in a little more than a year. (Unless Hillary follows Charlie's wishes and keeps Gates on board.) If Anbar hasn't gone to hell, maybe the Marines will get their redeployment after all.