About 300 US Marines will be sent to Afghanistan’s Helmand province to provide intelligence and logistics support to Afghan security forces battling Taliban insurgents, unit commander Brigadier General Roger Turner said.
The deployment to Helmand will be the Marines’ first to the southern province since they left in 2014 as the US declared an end to its combat mission. Since then, Afghan security forces, still backed by Washington in the form of air strikes and hundreds of advisers, have struggled to contain the Taliban advance.
Tens of thousands of Marines fought fierce battles against the Taliban in Helmand over five years. Nearly 1,000 coalition troops have been killed there since the US-led military intervention in 2001, more than in any other province.
In the last two years the Taliban have captured areas that were the site of some of the deadliest battles for the Marines, including Sangin, Marjah and Nowzad, and for much of 2016 they have threatened to take the provincial capital Lashkar Gah.
In a statement posted online, Taliban officials ridiculed the Marines’ deployment as one of the “final failed efforts” by outgoing US President Barack Obama to stem the violence in Afghanistan.