ARLINGTON, Virginia ― One Marine with 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, was wounded while guarding the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, but he has since returned to duty, Marine Corps officials confirmed Thursday.
The Marine was shot Monday as Marines were trying to establish a perimeter around the airport and create a defensive, Brig. Gen. Peter D. Huntley, director of the operations division for Marine plans, policies and operations, told a group of reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday.
Huntley said the wound was more of a “graze” on the Marine’s leg than an actual shot.
“The way it was described in reporting was that it was basically potshots,” Huntley said. “It was relatively minor, that Marine was patched up and he returned to duty.”
Two Afghans were killed in the incident.
Huntley said Marines on the ground do not believe incident was “Taliban coordinated.”
“It could be a variety of individuals,” he said.
Huntley says the situation on the ground has “stabilized considerably” since the shooting incident as U.S. forces have built up the defensive inside the airport.
The Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, based battalion makes up the largest contingent of Marines at the airport and has been the “main effort” of Marine participation in the recent situation in Afghanistan, Huntley said.
They deployed to the airport on Sunday, as the Taliban quickly captured the rest of the nation.
The Marines were sent from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which was extended in the region in anticipation of the need to send in Marines to protect the evacuation of U.S. citizens and Afghan nationals who had worked for the U.S. military.
Combat Logistics Battalion 24, based in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, also deployed from the MEU, bringing the total number of Marines from the MEU in Kabul, Afghanistan, to around 1,200, Huntley told reporters.
Another 800 Marines, including elements of 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, headquartered in Camp Pendleton, California, and logistics units from Combat Logistics Regiment 21 joined the Marines from the 24th MEU on the ground in Kabul, Afghanistan. They deployed from the prepositioned Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force–Crisis Response–Central Command, or SPMAGTF-CR-CC, a unit created in 2012 after Islamic terrorists attacked a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
The roughly 2,000 Marines are currently operating under Joint Task Force crisis response, built around Task Force 51/5.
Roughly 50 Marines from Task Force 51/5 were sent to the U.S. Embassy before Kabul, Afghanistan, was captured by the Taliban to bolster defense as embassy personnel evacuated.
The initial mission for the Marines was to secure the airfield, but they have since passed on that role to elements of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, which arrived in Kabul, Afghanistan, after the Marines.
“The Marines are primarily focused on what we refer to as the evacuation control center, that is the efforts to process American citizens, (special immigrant visa recipients) and other Afghans and partner nation citizens for evacuation,” Huntley said.
While Marines on the ground are helping the State Department process evacuees, in the air AV-8B Harriers from the 24th MEU are participating in providing an aerial overwatch of the evacuation process, Huntley said.
In addition to providing extra security, Marine aviation has MV-22 Ospreys and KC-130s on standby in the region in case a plane flying in or out of Afghanistan crashes, Huntley said.
“That’s a ‘be prepared to’ task,” Huntley said.
He added that the planes are not preparing to pick up any U.S. or other evacuees who cannot make it to the capital due to blockades set up by the Taliban.