November 28, 2011 defpro.com
US Marines will march out of Afghanistan by the thousands next year, winding down combat in the Taliban heartland and testing the US view that Afghan forces are capable of leading the fight against a battered but not yet beaten insurgency in the country's southwestern reaches.
At the same time, US reinforcements will be sent to eastern Afghanistan in a bid to reverse recent gains by insurgents targeting Kabul, the capital.
General James F Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, said in an Associated Press interview that the number of Marines in Helmand province will drop "markedly" in 2012, and the role of those who stay will shift from countering the insurgency to training and advising the Afghan security forces.
The change suggests an early exit from Afghanistan for the Marine Corps, even as the prospects for solidifying their recent successes are uncertain.
"Am I OK with that? The answer is 'yes,'" Amos said.
At stake is President Barack Obama's pledge to win in Afghanistan the war he touted during his 2008 presidential campaign as worth fighting, while pledging to get out of Iraq.
Facing a stalemate in 2009, Obama ordered an extra 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan including about 10,000 Marines to Helmand province in the belief that if the Taliban were to retake the government al-Qaida would soon return to the land from which it plotted the September 11, 2001, attacks. (DD India)