ARLINGTON, Va. --
The director of operations at Headquarters Marine Corps held a media round table for local military reporters at the Pentagon to address current and future operations of the Marine Corps March 9.
Topics discussed included the progress of the troop surge in Afghanistan and other Marine Corps operations throughout the world, including the condition of equipment that has endured the brunt of a two-front war.
The round table began as Brig. Gen. David H. Berger informed the media of the current stance of the Marines in Marjah, Afghanistan.
“Marjah was the last place in southern Afghanistan where we really need to take control back and give it to the people,” Berger said. “Now [the Marines begin partnering and mentoring], pushing the Afghan National Army faster and harder to pick up the responsibility for security and training of law enforcement.”
The Marine Corps has approximately 60 percent of the personnel in place necessary to fulfill their part of the president’s troop-surge and 80 percent of the equipment, with the last infantry battalion mobilized in support of the surge flying to Afghanistan this week.
By mid-April there will be more than 19,000 Marines in southern Afghanistan, with the Marine presence to remain just under 20,000 for the foreseeable future, Berger said.
The operational and tactical planning for Operation Moshtarak involved more than Marines, Berger said. It involved coordination with the Afghan government on every level.
The Marines took a deliberate and conscious approach in shaping the operation. It was announced well in advance and publicized, a practice not common for the military.
“It’s too early after the operation to tell if [this practice has] been effective,” Berger said. “It will take a while to assess this approach in this kind of counter insurgency.”
With the operation in the hold phase, Marines have started assisting locals with reestablishing their economic standing and governance.
Although there is no timeline to turn over the area to the local government, the Marines will persistently encourage the local law enforcement to achieve long term stabilization in Marjah, Berger said.
“We will be aggressive in handing it [over],” he said. “The forces that are needed to accomplish this are there.”
Berger also said lessons learned in Iraq are being applied in the aftermath of Operation Moshtarak .
“If [the Marines] draw down to fast, pull back too early, then [they] leave the people there exposed and [they’ve] failed,” Berger said. “If [the Marines] stay too long and develop a sense of dependency, [it will be] difficult to shift that trust to [the local law enforcement].”
According to Berger, the operation went well logistically and tactically. However, the Corps’ involvement in future operations throughout the region has not yet been determined.
The fate of southern Afghanistan lies with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and NATO will determine the position and future operations of coalition forces in the region, Berger said.
Berger went on to address other operational related questions, informing media representatives that the Corps’ arsenal of gear, to include vehicles and aircraft are performing and well-maintained.
Berger also mentioned the Corps’ decreasing presence in Iraq, noting that less than 150 Marines remain in the country.
“By next fall a 25-man team will remain to train Iraqi Marines for as long as they’d like us to do that,” he said.
Operations in Haiti and Africa, as well as the possible use of expeditionary energy were also addressed, as each reporter had the opportunity to ask a question prior to the conclusion of the hour long gathering.