These Marines’ tour was one of the most brutal of the entire war. In its first three weeks in Afghanistan’s Sangin district, the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines got into more than 100 firefights, and sustained 62 casualties. The insurgents managed to negate the Marines’ night-vision gear, and rendered their traditional close-combat tactics useless. Things got so bad, the 3/5’s superior officers even suggested pulling their troops back.Oh yeah baby. The war is going well, except for the part that's going poorly. Where have we heard that before? Oh yeah, Iraq. And umm...Iraq. Also too.
The extent of the resistance encountered in Sangin surprised many of the Marines. It was stronger than any Taliban resistance that Marines had witnessed previously in Afghanistan. During prior major Marine operations in Helmand, the insurgents had fought toe-to-toe for a few days and then relied primarily on IEDs [improvised explosive devices] and small hit-and-run ambushes. The insurgents in Sangin kept attacking in large numbers, and regrouped for counter-attacks after the initial volleys instead of dispersing.Pesky insurgents. How many times do we have to tell them they're losing before they listen? Man. Learn your role buddy, OK?
The magnitude of the IED threat forced the Marines to patrol in a fundamentally different way than infantrymen patrol in most counterinsurgencies. As they had learned from Marines with prior experience in Helmand, the Taliban prepared ambush zones by emplacing IEDs in all the places where soldiers were likely to move when under fire. As a consequence, the Marines had to be much more cautious in employing traditional fire-and-maneuver tactics. They had to maneuver more slowly, or not at all.See? This is why the war has lasted ten years. We'd have won in a week if if we hadn't had to maneuver more slowly, or not at all.
The prevalence of IEDs also kept the Marines from patrolling at night. The Marines’ night vision equipment did not provide adequate visibility to spot many of the telltale signs of IEDs, so night patrolling would have entailed many additional casualties, which could not be worth the benefits gained since the insurgents themselves seldom operated at night.Another reason the war has taken ten years. If we'd been able to patrol at times when the insurgents weren't around or areas where they hadn't been the war would have been over in a week, maybe two.
OK, another six months, tops.