Who Are We Fighting In The Helmand Province?

The most difficult thing to explain about the upcoming deployment of Marines back into the Helmand province is the threat they are facing. The traditional counterinsurgency narrative that has driven past deployments is best explained as follows:

…a legitimate Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA), which is recognized and supported by the international community, is violently opposed by a movement of insurgents, called the Taliban, who have sanctuary in Quetta, Pakistan. Thus, the Taliban are religiously inspired insurgents who are opposed to the democratic and women’s rights that the GIRoA embodies and promotes.

That is not an accurate assessment of what’s driving the instability in Helmand province. The video pasted below (about 3 minutes) is an interview with Dr. Mike Martin, author of An Intimate War, and he provides a good explanation of what is driving the current fighting in the province.

As noted in my first post on the topic Dr. Martin is part of the a team of British experts on the Helmand province who have been working with the Marines of Task Force Southwest (TF Southwest).  How are the Marines (and the U.S. Department of State) going to use their detailed knowledge of the factors driving province-wide instability given the limitations of the train, assist and advise mission?

That is the million dollar question which can only be answered by embedding with and recording the Marines effort. This mission is the first of many to follow and the lessons learned will be used in other countries where we face the identical problem of bringing security to populations traumatized by war and naturally suspicious of and hostile to military formations from Western countries. Please take the time to visit my Go Fund Me page and donate to help fund this important story. It’s important and needs to be told to the people who sent the TF Southwest Marines on such a high-risk mission.

The next video is a difficult conversation between Mike Martin and a Danish veteran named Jimmy Krig. It is an important conversation on how a veteran of the fighting there can square what he or she did with the knowledge of what really drove the levels of violence in the province. It is a reminder of what we are asking the Marines (and the soldiers of Task Force Forge who they are replacing) to do when they venture into harms way to try and help drive the violence down. I need to stress that for veterans and those who love them this may be a difficult video to watch…but it’s an important one to understand.

2 Replies to “Who Are We Fighting In The Helmand Province?”

  1. There may actually be such a thing as a “British expert” on Helmand but I doubt it unless by “British” you mean a guy born and raised in Afghanistan who moved to the UK in his 40s.

    By ‘expert” the west really means “the least clueless of our guys”. In it’s most ridiculous version- the Human Terrain Team- thw USGOV hired anthropologists with Phds in Plains Indians and Japan to advise on how Afghan society was organized. If a Russian who could not speak English and couldn’t read Latin script announced himself to be an “expert” on the US would you take him seriously? Of course not but we’ve done this for nearly 20 years in the Greater Middle East.

    This is all part of the great COIN scam. The delusiona (or fraud) that we can remake Afghanistan in our image.

    1. I think the “least clueless of our guys” is an apt description although in the case of Mike Martin at least he spoke fluent Pashto which I never mastered. And his take on what is needed to get the violence down is not congruent with the typical COIN supporter. Having said that our ability to adapt and improvise to changing ground truths continues to be missing in action. I’m not sure if we can ever get it right but this new phase of an old war could prove to be a start.

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