When thousands of US Marines flooded into Helmand eight years ago, they demonstrated a resolve to quash the Taliban once and for all and leave a peaceful province for Afghans to take over. Two years after, the Marines are back, in a sign that things turned out rather differently.
“It feels like Groundhog Day,” said Staff Sergeant Robin Spotts, on his third Helmand deployment.
The situation now is worse than when they left. Areas, where the US military had outposts and walked the bazaars, are now inaccessible even for Afghan forces. Of the province’s 14 districts, only two are firmly under government control. The Taliban are stronger in Helmand than anywhere else. The Afghan army’s 215th Corps in Helmand struggles not only with record-high casualties but deep-seated corruption that has gutted finances and morale.