WASHINGTON— A roughly 300-Marine unit in Afghanistan known as Task Force Southwest has beefed up its security in Helmand province with the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, Military Times has learned.
Task Force Southwest operates in a number of outposts in Helmand Province where they are advising Afghan partners in their fight against the Taliban. Military Times will not disclose the location of the HIMARS system due to operational security concerns.
“Task Force Southwest has both direct and indirect fire assets available to assist our Afghan partners in the 215th Corps and 505th Zone, as well as to protect our Marines and Sailors,” Marine Maj. Kendra Motz, a spokeswoman for Task Force Southwest, told Military Times.
HIMARS is a powerful precision rocket artillery system with a range of nearly 300 km, according to Army artillery publications. The range of the system is dependent on the type of munition being fired.
As the Islamic State group has collapsed in Iraq and Syria, U.S. military officials have said some assets will be moved to Afghanistan.
HIMARS have been vital to operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, providing artillery and precision strike capability for U.S. and partner forces on the ground.
According to a report by CNN, HIMARS was deployed to beef up security at a remote garrison called Tanf in southern Syria near the Iraq border back in mid-June.
It’s unclear if the recent deployment of the HIMARS system is in reaction to deteriorating security in the region, where the Afghan government has ceded more territory to a resurgent Taliban over the last several months, according to a recent assessment by the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, a government watchdog group.
However, HIMARS are not new to the Afghan theatre. According to a recent DoD press release, the Colorado Army National Guard’s Battery A, 3rd Battalion, 157th Field Artillery Regiment, known as Task Force Apache, is returning home on Nov. 8th from a deployment to Afghanistan where they employed HIMARS.
“The unit members launched hundreds of precision rockets and missiles, while operating at the highest rate of any High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System unit since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan,” the press release reads.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.