By February 20th, 2010, the Battle of Marjah had been underway for a week. In order to seize the Afghan district—an IED-infested, Taliban-dominated collection of villages and crisscrossing canals and tree lines that were a defending fighter’s dream—the U.S. military had divided its force into thirds. A task force of more than a thousand U.S. Marines, accompanied by Afghan soldiers, assaulted the northern portion of Marjah. Ditto for the central portion of the district.
And the southern third? It had been attacked by a single U.S. Army Special Forces team consisting of nine men, accompanied by a handful of Marine engineers tasked with clearing bombs from the roads and a few hundred Afghan troops that were more of a babysitting case than true partners. Such a light American footprint on at least part of the battlefield would “put an Afghan face” on the operation, as the lingo went at the time.