The Ministry of Defense (MoD) on Sunday said the deployment of a fresh batch of 300 U.S Marines to Helmand aims to train and advise the conventional Afghan forces.
“The United States army, which operates in Afghanistan during any season, conducts a rotation in their forces, if three hundred comes, another three hundred leave,” said MoD spokesman Mohammad Radmanish.
Some Afghan parliamentarians have welcomed the move and said it is a step forward in government’s bid to suppress the Taliban in the south. But some senators have raised doubts over the mission, saying this would not have a significant impact on the ongoing turmoil in the province.
This comes a day after U.S officials announced the deployment of a task force of 300 Marines to Helmand this spring to help the embattled Afghan security forces fight a resurgent Taliban group in the southern province.
The MoD has said that the Marines would play an advisory and training role for the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police in the province.
Direct involvement of these Marines in battles with the Taliban remains uncertain, but a top U.S general has anticipated that the mission by these forces would be quite difficult.
They will be focused on enhancing the Afghans' ability to gather and interpret battlefield intelligence, and on improving their logistical coordination and other areas where key "challenges and capability gaps persist," said Brig. Gen. Roger B. Turner Jr., the task force commander.
"The challenges they have," Turner said, "are really intel operations, integration, logistics, sustainment of their forces, administration and things like that."
The Afghans have made considerable progress, he added, a reality that drove the commander's decision to tap personnel with considerable experience.
"It’s not a simplistic mission," Turner said. The Afghans have "really gotten to a point where our level of advising needs to be pretty sophisticated to match where their capabilities are.”
Reports indicate that the Marines are expected to be deployed in the provincial capital Lashkargah and they will also travel to other provinces when needed.
Defense ministry statistics reveal that currently up to 6,000 insurgents are present in Helmand while another 3,000 are operating in Farah province.
“The presence of foreign forces including Marine and air (force personnel) in Afghan provinces is a need, because of their cooperation with the Afghan security forces and at the same time the elimination of terrorists in every region of Afghanistan,” said MP Mohammad Abdoh.
“Advising and assisting Afghan defense and security forces will assist in preserving gains made together with the Afghans. This new deployment of Marines to Helmand reflects our enduring commitment to the people of Afghanistan,” said an official statement from the U.S Marine Corps.
Following the withdrawal of U.S forces from Helmand in 2014, the Taliban operatives made a number of major offensives against Afghan security forces in their efforts to gain new ground in the area and recently Taliban insurgents managed to make their way to suburbs of the provincial capital.