Marines, Brits, quit Helmand Province in Afghanistan

With no fanfare, no announcement from the White House or Pentagon, US Marines lowered the flag at Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province, Afghanistan and handed over security to the Afghan army.

The British also quit Camp Bastion in the province, thus ending British military involvement in the war,

Helmand Province has been heavily penetrated by the Taliban and will be the biggest test yet for Afghan security forces.

Foreign Policy:

American and British combat operations formally came to an end in Helmand Province, one of the bloodiest theaters in the U.S.-led war against the Taliban and a primary focus of Obama's 2010 surge of tens of thousands of American reinforcements charged with beating back the revitalized insurgency.

But there were no White House statements issued Sunday to commemorate the occasion, no press conferences convened to celebrate the day. Instead, U.S. Marines and British forces in southern Afghanistan quietly lowered and folded their flags in a solemn ceremony at Camp Leatherneck, the largest U.S. base to be handed over to Afghan authorities, and Britain's neighboring Camp Bastion to mark the formal transfer of power to the Afghan Army's 215th Corps. The two countries lost hundreds of troops in Helmand, but the situation there remains so dangerous that the precise timing of the base closures was kept secret for security reasons.

British Defense Minister Michael Fallon said his country's military -- which lost 453 troops in Afghanistan -- had "set the security context that enabled the first democratic transition of power in the country's history, and stopped it being a launch pad for terrorist attacks in the UK."

Still, Fallon, showing a candor often missing in the statements of equally senior American officials, acknowledged that "mistakes were made militarily, mistakes were made by the politicians at the time and this goes back 10, 13 years."

"Clearly the numbers weren't there at the beginning, the equipment wasn't quite good enough at the beginning and we've learned an awful lot from the campaign," he said. "But don't let's ignore what has been achieved."

The landmark passed with little fanfare in Washington, reflecting the degree to which the Obama administration has sought to move beyond a deeply unpopular conflict that marked the opening front in the U.S.-led war on terrorism and took the lives of 3,476 coalition forces, including 2,349  Americans and 453 British nationals. The White House Twitter feed didn't even mention Afghanistan, devoting its attention to assuring anxious Americans that there is little risk of the Ebola virus spreading across the homeland like some pernicious wildfire.

US combat operations will cease entirely next year and all combat troops will be brought home. Only a residual force of a few thousand trainers, intel people, and advisors will remain.

The Afghan army isn't nearly ready to face the Taliban and defeat them. They have numbers, but their equipment is deficient and reports say they are poorly led. In truth, since they took over security for much of the country last year, they haven't done too badly. But large swaths of the country are in the hands of the Taliban and few believe they can retake that territory without American assistance.

Might Afghanistan devolve into another Iraq? It's very possible, but not a certainty. While the Afghan government is weak, what little there is of it is pro-American. There is also the possibility that the next president may see it in America;'s interest to prevent a total Taliban takeover of the country. We won't go back into Afghanistan with tens of thousands of troops, but may put some boots on the ground to support and advise Afghan combat units in key areas.

 

 

With no fanfare, no announcement from the White House or Pentagon, US Marines lowered the flag at Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province, Afghanistan and handed over security to the Afghan army.

The British also quit Camp Bastion in the province, thus ending British military involvement in the war,

Helmand Province has been heavily penetrated by the Taliban and will be the biggest test yet for Afghan security forces.

Foreign Policy:

American and British combat operations formally came to an end in Helmand Province, one of the bloodiest theaters in the U.S.-led war against the Taliban and a primary focus of Obama's 2010 surge of tens of thousands of American reinforcements charged with beating back the revitalized insurgency.

But there were no White House statements issued Sunday to commemorate the occasion, no press conferences convened to celebrate the day. Instead, U.S. Marines and British forces in southern Afghanistan quietly lowered and folded their flags in a solemn ceremony at Camp Leatherneck, the largest U.S. base to be handed over to Afghan authorities, and Britain's neighboring Camp Bastion to mark the formal transfer of power to the Afghan Army's 215th Corps. The two countries lost hundreds of troops in Helmand, but the situation there remains so dangerous that the precise timing of the base closures was kept secret for security reasons.

British Defense Minister Michael Fallon said his country's military -- which lost 453 troops in Afghanistan -- had "set the security context that enabled the first democratic transition of power in the country's history, and stopped it being a launch pad for terrorist attacks in the UK."

Still, Fallon, showing a candor often missing in the statements of equally senior American officials, acknowledged that "mistakes were made militarily, mistakes were made by the politicians at the time and this goes back 10, 13 years."

"Clearly the numbers weren't there at the beginning, the equipment wasn't quite good enough at the beginning and we've learned an awful lot from the campaign," he said. "But don't let's ignore what has been achieved."

The landmark passed with little fanfare in Washington, reflecting the degree to which the Obama administration has sought to move beyond a deeply unpopular conflict that marked the opening front in the U.S.-led war on terrorism and took the lives of 3,476 coalition forces, including 2,349  Americans and 453 British nationals. The White House Twitter feed didn't even mention Afghanistan, devoting its attention to assuring anxious Americans that there is little risk of the Ebola virus spreading across the homeland like some pernicious wildfire.

US combat operations will cease entirely next year and all combat troops will be brought home. Only a residual force of a few thousand trainers, intel people, and advisors will remain.

The Afghan army isn't nearly ready to face the Taliban and defeat them. They have numbers, but their equipment is deficient and reports say they are poorly led. In truth, since they took over security for much of the country last year, they haven't done too badly. But large swaths of the country are in the hands of the Taliban and few believe they can retake that territory without American assistance.

Might Afghanistan devolve into another Iraq? It's very possible, but not a certainty. While the Afghan government is weak, what little there is of it is pro-American. There is also the possibility that the next president may see it in America;'s interest to prevent a total Taliban takeover of the country. We won't go back into Afghanistan with tens of thousands of troops, but may put some boots on the ground to support and advise Afghan combat units in key areas.