Lance Cpl. Andrew Englund, a radio operator from Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, patrols through the Nawa District bazaar after conducting a security sweep at Khalaj High School in Nawa, Afghanistan, Sept. 7, 2010. The school year began Sept. 5 and the Marines and their Afghan counterparts throughout 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment's tactical area of responsibility have provided security in Nawa District's schools each day. Englund is from Yakima, Wash. (Sgt. Mark Fayloga/Marine Corps)
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The Marines will likely know this summer their role, if any, in the contingency force to remain in Afghanistan after 2014, the commandant of the Marine Corps said this week.
“I suspect we’ll know sometime in the next couple of months,” Gen. Jim Amos told reporters following a lecture at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. June 26. “It would make sense to try to decide sooner rather than later, so you don’t retrograde equipment out of there.”
President Barack Obama announced in May that a force of 9,800 troops would remain in Afghanistan for training and counter-terrorism operations for two years following the official conclusion of the U.S. combat mssion at the end of this year. That force, the White House said, would be concentrated at major regional headquarters of Afghanistan in 2015, and would consolidate into Kabul and Bagram in 2016.
With fewer than 4,000 Marines and 13,000 major equipment items remaining in Afghanistan, the post-2014 mission for the Corps remains unclear.
“I’m going on the assumption right now that the clear bulk of the forces in Helmand and Nimroz will be out by the end of December,” Amos said.
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan and nominee for next commandant of the Marine Corps, is working now to create the mission sets for U.S. troops and determine the balance of forces.
Meanwhile, Amos said the Marines had done what they set out to accomplish in their area of operations in the south of Afghanistan by beating down the drug trade, quelling Taliban violence, and training the Afghan National Army — despite remaining instability and a recent Taliban resurgence in the kinetic Sangin district.
“I would argue that we’ve completed our mission,” he said. “We will have completed it by the end of this year.”