US Marines Return to Afghanistan’s Helmand Province

Troops Aim to Try to Slow Mounting Losses to Taliban

Some 16 years into the US war in Afghanistan, the Pentagon has been unrealistically optimistic in pretty much all public statements on the conflict. It is telling, then, that at this point the best they can muster is a claim that the Afghan war is in a “stalemate,” with US Marines headed to Helmand Province to try to break the stalemate.

What they’re calling a stalemate looks suspiciously to observers like losing, as the Afghan military has been losing territory across the country to Taliban offensives, with the Taliban holding more land now than they have at any other point in the war. The deployment of the Marines was ultimately a last, desperate attempt to keep Helmand’s lucrative opium trade from falling 100% into the Taliban’s hands.

Pentagon officials are trying to present this as a testament to the years “invested” in seizing Helmand from the Taliban in the first place, and claimed the troops going in are upbeat, and “excited” to go back into an area which they nominally had permanently liberated years ago.

In addition to marking the return of the Marines to Afghanistan, this also marks the return of US troops into obvious combat roles in Afghanistan, as despite officials presenting the Marines as “trainers” they clearly wouldn’t be sending 300 Marines into remote parts of Helmand if they didn’t intend to use them.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.