July 02, 2009
Marines on the move in Afghanistan
Chandrasekaran reports on the ongoing Marine operations in Helmand province. I suppose it shouldn't be a surprise, but I found this troubling:
"The Marines have also been vexed by a lack of Afghan security forces and a near-total absence of additional U.S. civilian reconstruction personnel. Nicholson had hoped that his brigade, which has about 11,000 Marines and sailors, would be able to conduct operations with a similar number of Afghan soldiers. But thus far, the Marines have been allotted only about 500 Afghan soldiers, which he deems "a critical vulnerability."...Despite commitments from the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development that they would send additional personnel to help the new forces in southern Afghanistan with reconstruction and governance development, State has added only two officers in Helmand since the Marines arrived. State has promised to have a dozen more diplomats and reconstruction experts working with the Marines, but only by the end of the summer."
I'll just repeat my earlier suggestion that the Administration ensure it has all the resources it needs if it intends to carry out population-centric counterinsurgency in southern Afghanistan (or anywhere else). The lack of Afghan government forces and civilian reconstruction experts doesn't bode particularly well for any lasting effect from this operation, and it's deeply disappointing that we've known about these shortfalls for so long and still can't seem to do much about them.
UPDATE: Attackerman digs up a bit more on the civilian contribution to the Helmand operation.