Maj. Gen. Richard Mills held a press conference from Afghanistan with reporters at the Pentagon yesterday, generating a flurry of headlines about the war.
Many of the stories focused on the general’s bold claim that the battle in Marjah district is “essentially over.” Most engagements with the enemy are now on the outskirts of the district, from which the Taliban still launches attacks from neighboring deserts, Mills said.
“He still comes out of his hole every once in a while from the desert, comes into town and takes the odd shot at us, but in effect, he has lost the ability to impact much on the people of Marjah,” the general said. “His last technique was to try a strategy of murder and intimidation. And what he was met with was local nationals who organized themselves into neighborhood watches and who rejected both the violence he brought with him and the demands for money that he arrived with.”
I’ll go out on a limb and say that some of the Marines engaged in combat in and around Marjah — particularly 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, and 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. — may disagree with the assessment that the battle of Marjah is essentially over. Still, the progress is encouraging.
The picture in Sangin isn’t as cheerful. With two more deaths Monday, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., has lost 19 service members since deploying in late September.
Mills said Tuesday that the forces he has in and around Sangin “right now are adequate for the task,” but left open the possibility that more Marines could deploy there later.
The Corps is well aware of the toll this deployment has taken on 3/5 and its families. Commandant Gen. Jim Amos and his wife, Bonnie, met with the battalion’s families Tuesday at Camp Pendleton, his spokesman, Maj. Joseph Plenzler. The meeting ran long enough that a planned meeting on base with 11th Marines was cancelled, Plenzler told my colleague, Gidget Fuentes.
Families and Marines who have deployed to Sangin have weighed in previously o9n Battle Rattle in this blog entry. That feedback will continue to be welcomed here.