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Reconnaissance Marines in Afghanistan have launched a new operation near the former Taliban stronghold of Marjah aimed at pushing insurgents out of nearby areas they have used to launch repeated attacks on Marine patrols.
Operation New Dawn will be "attacking areas that insurgents use in transit to and from Marjah," said 1st Lt. Joshua Benson, a spokesman for 1st Marine Division (Forward), based in Afghanistan. Marines with 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., launched the operation June 15.
New Dawn is an extension of Operation Moshtarak, Benson said. The Corps launched that mission in February with a massive assault to push the Taliban, drug traffickers and other insurgents from Marjah, a sprawling rural area in central Helmand province with more than 80,000 people.
Already, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, out of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, has assisted in New Dawn, establishing observation posts in southern Shorshork, an area in between Marjah and Nawa, a district to the east with about 89,000 people, according to a Marine Corps news release. Lima Company 3/3 established blocking positions for 48 hours beginning June 17 that limited insurgents' freedom of movement, Marine officials said.
The actions are likely just the beginning. Marine leaders in Afghanistan plan to use 1st Recon to root out insurgents in several other areas surrounding Marjah this summer, said Brig. Gen. Joseph Osterman, commander of 1st MarDiv Fwd., during a June 1 interview with Marine Corps Times in Afghanistan. Those areas include the Sistani Desert to the west of Marjah and Trek Nawa, a sprawling area to Marjah's east filled farm compounds controlled by the Taliban. The Taliban has coordinating repeated attacks on Marine patrols from both areas.
"First Recon, before they even left [the U.S.], were training in more of a ground combat-type of role," Osterman said in June. "They still retain a lot of their reconnaissance skills and the maturity that goes with that type of unit, but basically they'll be working those outer areas."
The decision to send recon Marines to Marjah wasn't made because commanders in the region need their ability to go deep behind enemy lines without detection, but because the other infantry battalions the Corps has in Afghanistan already have defined missions underway.
"Once we go into an area, we never want to leave it until it's ready to be transitioned to Afghani control," Osterman said. "With the units that are out here and the timing of where they are and how things are going, it makes more sense to deploy recon than it would be to uncover somebody else and sharing" the job.
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