NATO Forces

Because They Fixed Helmand Real Good, Marines Are Going Back

Because Helmand was in such good shape when they left the last time, Marines are going back. But as advisors.

Today in laughing through my tears, here’s this little gem from the Marine Corps about why they’re heading back to Helmand.

More than two years after departing Afghanistan as a fighting force, the Marine Corps may be sending troops back into the country in an advisory capacity.

Marines with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, NATO International Security Assistance Force, operating in Garmsir. Back when everything in Helmand was just fine, thank you very much.

It’s a movie we’ve seen before, and pretty sure we know how it ends, and that’s the top line on this whole thing: Marines go back to a place both they and the Brits bled all over for years in an attempt to advise the Afghan National Army.

What’s more noteworthy than bemoaning the futility of war and the death of COIN (long live COIN) is that the Marines are scrambling to justify their existence. Which is something that happens every few years and in a time of decreased military spending is assuming a bit more relevance for the globe and anchor crowd.

There’s a long history of Marines being Marines that Marines want to make sure none of us forget. Except that being Marines also means that Marines need to make sure the rest of the defense establishment sees them as having a role. Which in a world where Foreign Internal Defense (FID) isn’t just a Special Forces mission anymore, they’re going to keep going back to places like Helmand. And Mosul.

FID is where a bunch of Green Berets spend time in shitty little countries training militaries with dubious ethical backgrounds how to kill people more better. It’s what we call a “force multiplier” since if we can get the little brown guy to shoot at the other little brown guys, maybe Americans don’t have to.

Outside of that, though, is the undeniable fact that American strategy in places like Afghanistan means that return visits are inevitable. Because fighting one war 15 times in a row means you don’t leave behind a force capable of fighting for itself. And so you go back. And back again.