MARSOC role in Afghanistan comes into focus


Operators with Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command are building stability in Puzeh, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Robert Burns)

Commandant Gen. Jim Amos’ trip to Afghanistan through the Thanksgiving holiday has brought a little reported Marine Corps mission to the forefront: village stability operations.

Associated Press reporter Bob Burns was along for the trip, and outlined in some detail what operators with Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command are doing in Puzeh, a dusty village in Helmand province about 10 miles south of the Kajaki Dam.

In September, I discussed the MARSOC village stability operations mission with Maj. Gen. John Toolan, the top U.S. commander in southwestern Afghanistan. Instead of being involved in raids or other high-profile spec-ops missions, the MARSOC Marines who perform village stability operations are called in to small villages where Marine commanders see potential for progress, even if there isn’t a full established Marine presence, he said.

“The teams are about 20 to 25 Marines, and they team up with Afghani commandos and sometimes they team up with UAE commandos,” Toolan said. “They go into these villages that are in between, in an area that we can’t necessarily cover, or they go into areas that we haven’t gone to yet. Their new areas, but we want them to go in and soften them up a bit and start building relationships with the community.”

Toolan said there are three MARSOC teams performing village stability operations. Over time, their mission may evolve.

“What you may find is that as they finish mentoring the Afghan local police forces, they may continue to serve as advisers, maybe for several village platforms, rather than just one,” Toolan said. “So, I could see maybe their [area of operations]expanding, and them taking on more of an adviser role rather than what they’re doing now, which is really partnering with the Afghan local police.”

Other MARSOC operators are based in western Afghanistan, primarily in Farah province.


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I'm a senior writer with Marine Corps Times, covering ground warfare, manpower, weapons acquisition and other beats. I embedded in Afghanistan in spring 2010, and plan to return at least once in 2011.

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