Generals, Commanding Officers and Leaders, For the second time in two days U.S. Marines deployed to RC (SW) have been killed and wounded in incidents involving Afghan nationals. Although the facts are still being gathered, in the first incident an Afghan dressed as a police officer killed three U.S. Marines and injured a fourth. In the second incident a trusted Afghan killed three U.S. Marines and injured a fourth.
It is worth pointing out that in the second incident Afghan policemen in the area assisted U.S. Marines in engaging and detaining the gunman. Let there be no doubt…as a Corps we grieve the loss of our fellow Marines, and our thoughts and prayers go out to their families. We will never forget what has happened this week. These cowardly acts are symptomatic of a desperate enemy. As we deal with the understandable deep pain and anger that invariably accompanies such events, we have to put them in context. When faced with the stark reality of what has just happened, it would be easy to give in to the belief that these attacks indicate we are losing the fight. In fact, the opposite is true. These attacks are occurring because we are winning the fight in RC (SW). Over the last four years we have steadily improved the security situation in Helmand. We have made common cause with the local Afghan people, isolated the insurgents from the population, and applied steady pressure to the insurgents. Our determined efforts have resulted in security and prosperity in locations that were previously insurgent strongholds- places like Nawa, Marjah, and Sangin. Historical casualty levels have steadily declined. Afghan security forces have made dramatic improvements in dependability, capability, and performance. Faced with our undeniable momentum and his own failure, the enemy is increasingly forced to resort to spectacular attacks. I am confident that these recent attacks were carefully crafted to drive a wedge between us and our Afghan partners. This is a common theme in the latter stages of a counter-insurgency operation. We saw the same thing in Iraq after the balance had tipped in our favor. I need each of you to talk about these attacks with our young Marines- particularly those deployed or in PTP… at the same time don’t miss the chance to discuss these attacks with our families who are undoubtedly anxious. Ensure all concerned understand that these attacks are, ironically, a measure of our effectiveness – a clear demonstration of the fact that the enemy is off balance and increasingly desperate. A measured, strategic view of these recent attacks is required. We will remain determined and positive. More of these types of spectacular attacks can be expected….in many respects, whether they’re successful or not will depend on us… we need to be alert and train accordingly. The art of our business lies in our ability to take a hard look at our own operations and vulnerabilities, and mitigate the risk without driving a wedge into the relationship we have painstakingly built with our Afghan partners. Accordingly, I direct that this letter be disseminated down the lowest levels of leadership within our Corps. JAMES F. AMOS General, U.S. Marine Corps Commandant of the Marine Corps