1st Battalion, 8th Marines help hold last piece of ground in Afghanistan
SAN DIEGO: In strategic locations around the globe there is a USMC Ground Combat Element (GCE) on a Navy ship ready to respond to crises like Kabul. “The 24th [Marine Expeditionary Unit] MEU was on a regularly scheduled deployment when they were tasked to be prepared to conduct operations in Afghanistan,” says Maj. Jim Stenger, Marine Corps spokesperson. The call was to Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA), named after a former president of Afghanistan.
Rest assured roughly 1,200 Marines with 1st Battalion, 8th Marines (1/8) were ready to answer that call. They are buoyed up by Combat Logistics Battalion 24, both located in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The Marines and Navy that make up the 24th MEU would have worked tirelessly as an integrated team months before deployment. To be crisis-response ready for a wide slate of global hot spot contingencies.
Whether it be natural disaster, combat missions, or Non-combatant Evacuation Operations (NEO). They never know what or who they will encounter or where.
Traditionally, the GCE is integrated with an aircraft squadron and logistics unit all aboard ship. When they deploy – it’s the quick-call ‘kick your backsides’ package.
When white Taliban flags came out of hiding everywhere, the call to crisis loomed.
The Taliban started rapidly taking over territory, moving towards Kabul in a matter of days. They easily overran the city, throwing Americans, Afghan allies, and workers from other international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) into a panic and entrapment.
The date of the call to the 24th MEU is not known by this writer. Upon arrival at HKIA, 1/8 Marines’ job was laid out as people amassed the tarmac as the last secure place in Afghanistan.
“The Marines at HKIA are conducting NEO operations and security to safely assist in the evacuation operations,” Stenger told CDN Saturday.
In essence, holding that last piece of ground as thousands remain trapped there, trusting their country to bring them home.
An expeditionary quick reaction force like the 24th MEU is a major cloak of confidence.
“As Marines we remain always ready to fight and win our nation’s battles, which requires an expeditionary mindset. Our partnership with the U.S. Navy allowed the Marines to be pre-positioned to be able to respond to this situation quickly, which is exactly what the United States can expect from its Marines,” says spokesperson Stenger.
In a country collapsing with Americans still there 1/8 Marines and Combat Logistics Battalion 24 offer hope. The climate inside the wire at Karzai Airport has to be tense and on edge. The Taliban say one thing and do another, as proven just a day ago. When they were reportedly letting people through checkpoints untouched.
The Taliban has dramatically changed its tactics overnight.
Saturday, the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan alerted Americans of increased security threats outside the wire of the airport.
“Because of potential security threats outside the gates at the Kabul airport, we are advising U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates at this time unless you receive individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so.”
Pentagon officials reiterated that the airport was secure. The new caveat is: if Americans can reach it.
“Americans have been beaten by the Taliban while attempting to reach the U.S.-held airport in Kabul, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said during a Defense Department briefing held after U.S. citizens were told Saturday not to travel to the airport due to security threats,” reports the Christian Post.
Now ISIS-K adds to the danger.
“There is a strong possibility ISIS-K is trying to carry off an attack at the airport,” a U.S. defense official told CNN.
The expanding crowds around the airport create a terror-rich target for Islamic extremist groups that
“may use car bombs or suicide bombers to attack, a Pentagon official said. Mortar attacks are another possible threat.”
None of this sounds good and adds to everyone’s anxiety there and around the world.
MSN reports the Taliban have taken over the city’s checkpoints. The three entry gates to the airport remain blocked with people pushing to get inside. In order to allow families, including women and children, into the airport, security forces are using tear gas and firing into the air to disperse the crowd, Western officials said.
In the last 24 hours, six U.S. military C-17 and 32 charters departed Kabul airport with a total of 3,800 passengers Maj. Gen. William Taylor said in a Pentagon briefing Saturday Aug 21.
Families at home, desperate for any news about the safety of their loved ones are not getting answers. No brutality or trickery is past the Taliban who caused a nationwide upheaval like an earthquake.
1/8 Marines go where ordered to go. They don’t ask questions.
There had to be a pulse among 1/8 Marines that came with the turnabout to Afghanistan.
Stenger is quick to praise, “The professionalism of the Marines on site, who are making quick decisions in a dynamic situation in support of evacuation operations.”
Yet, he refrained from comment if the Taliban are in charge of the airport perimeter or 1/8 Marines? Further concluding that inside HKIA is the last secure piece of ground. We still have a military presence in Afghanistan. So the end is not the end yet. The Whitehouse has a helluva lot to work to do to call it over.
Regarding any more incidents of shootings, Stenger cannot say. Earlier in the week, U.S. forces shot two armed men as Afghans attempted to flood the tarmac. Fleeing from the Taliban.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby on Thursday admitted he “doesn’t know” how many Americans remain in Afghanistan as the Biden administration scrambles to evacuate American citizens and Afghans at risk of Taliban reprisals from the country,” reported the New York Post.
Once troops withdrew and deserted bases, the Taliban emerged in full force from 20-years of hiding.
“The clock began to accelerate when U.S. military and intelligence elements withdrew from Kandahar on May 13. And thereafter closed remaining forward operating bases and “lily pads,” …temporary staging areas under U.S. or coalition control. By the time Bagram was closed on July 1, the United States and NATO had also departed Herat, Mazar-e- Sharif, Jalalabad, Khost and other locations,” says CIA’s Former Counterterrorism Chief for Afghanistan, Douglas London. He adds,
“They were quite likely joined by the many al-Qaeda members (some of whom had enjoyed Iranian sanctuary), if not direct operational support.”
It didn’t have to go like this…
“Now, the Taliban are likely to hunt down those suspected of collaborating with the U.S. and its NATO allies, despite the official line from Taliban officials that they are granting “amnesty.” And al Qaeda is likely to grow stronger, especially after the Taliban released a number of jailed terrorists from a prison outside Kabul.”
There was never a congressional declaration of war on Afghanistan. We never attacked Afghanistan, instead waged war on al-Qaeda and the Taliban, insurgent anti-Afghan government, anti-U.S. enemies. (Biden’s Afghanistan debacle demands a return of war powers to Congress)
Many worry about the Taliban using Afghanistan as a terror platform. To attack the U.S. in another 9-11-esque scenario. God help us if they do – The Marines will be ready.
About the Author:
Senior Staff Writer for CommDigiNews, Jeanne McKinney is an award-winning writer whose focus and passion is our United States active-duty military members and military news. Her Patriot Profiles offer an inside look at the amazing active-duty men and women in all Armed Services, including U.S. Marine Corps, Navy, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard.
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