Marines’ Mission in Helmand Could be Blueprint for Trump’s Afghanistan Strategy by Shashank Bengali – Los Angeles Times
… The U.S. military’s Task Force Southwest, led by 300 Marine advisers, has revitalized Afghan forces and increased airstrikes during a sustained government offensive that has pushed the Taliban away from major towns and highways and eliminated the threat to Lashkar Gah, according to U.S. and Afghan officials.
While the Marines’ deployment to Helmand took shape in the last months of the Obama administration, their mission encompasses one of the main goals of Trump’s troop surge, which Pentagon officials say is to get U.S. mentors out of large bases and closer to where Afghans are fighting in order to have a greater impact on the battlefield.
“I think we’re doing what’s in the new strategy now, within the capability and capacity we have,” said Brig. Gen. Roger Turner, commander of the task force based at Camp Shorab, a small outpost next to the sprawling emptiness of Camp Leatherneck, an abandoned base that once housed more than 20,000 NATO troops.
Roughly one-third of Turner’s troops have previously served in the province, etched in Marine lore for the bloody battles fought here in 2010 and 2011. Some 350 Americans lost their lives helping Afghan forces secure key districts — only to see many fall back under Taliban influence after they withdrew.
The new mission is different. While U.S. special operations forces still conduct secret raids, the Marines in Helmand, like the rest of conventional U.S. troops in Afghanistan, don’t patrol highways or visit mud-walled villages anymore. They advise government troops from inside military bases, provincial offices and operations centers lined with monitors streaming surveillance footage.
That has meant far fewer U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan — 13 this year compared with nearly 500 in 2010, when there were 10 times as many American troops here…