A small number of additional Marines is headed to Helmand province, Afghanistan, temporarily in a move designed to “reinforce advisory activities,” military officials confirmed August 8.
The move was first reported by NBC News August 7, which cited defense sources saying dozens of Marines — fewer than 100 — would be added to Task Force Southwest, a 300-man advisory unit that works with local Afghan National Army and defense forces.
The unit deployed in April, representing the first time Marines have been in the Taliban stronghold of Helmand province since they pulled out and ceded headquarters buildings and infrastructure to the Afghans in 2014.
Prior to the Marines’ arrival this year, a US Army advisory element, Task Force Forge, had been deployed to Helmand.
A spokesman for US Central Command, Army Maj. Josh Jacques, said the move is not related to any Defense Department change in policy or strategy in Afghanistan.
“The reallocation of Marine forces in support of the Resolute Support Mission is a routine, theater-coordinated activity,” he said. “These Marines are already in the US Central Command area of responsibility and will be in Afghanistan temporarily to give Resolute Support the ability to reinforce advisory activities.”
Most Marines in CentCom, which covers all of the Middle East, fall under Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Central Command, which has troops stationed at the Al Asad and Al Taqaddum air bases in Iraq and dispersed to other strategic positions in the region.
But in the recent past, Marines have also been dispatched from shipboard Marine Expeditionary Units deployed to the region to hot spots in the Middle East. Last year, troops from the 26th MEU were sent to Iraq to establish an artillery firebase and support the assault on the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul.
And earlier this year, an artillery element from the 11th MEU was dispatched to Syria to stand up a mobile fires position in support of the coalition fight to flush ISIS out of Raqqa.
The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, is currently deployed to the Middle East.