In an unusual move, the commander of U.S. special operations
troops in the region, ordered a unit of 120 U.S. Marines out of Afghanistan on
March 23rd. This was because of the way the marines handled a March 4th
incident where they were ambushed by a suicide car bomber and gunfire.
The marines were removed because their reaction to the ambush used "Iraq
Rules", and not the less violent procedures employed in Afghanistan. There's
more to it than that. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) has long had an uneasy
relationship with the U.S. Marine Corps. SOCOM was also uneasy with the
leadership of this Special Operations company, and was hoping that the unit
would perform well in Afghanistan. The March 4th incident became big news, and
that made it difficult for the marine unit to do well in the "winning hearts
and minds" department.
This incident is part of an older problem. The marines finally got around to
working with SOCOM (Special Operations Command) in late 2005, when it was
agreed that they would create a marine special operations command. The Marine
Corps had long resisted such a step, largely because of its belief that marines
are inherently superior warriors, capable of highly specialized missions. This
attitude began to change during the fighting in Afghanistan, when marines were
assigned to support SOCOM troops there.
As a result of that experience, marines were attached to SOCOM for liaison
and observation purposes. In 2004, the marines organized a company sized unit
of commandos, Detachment One, using volunteers from their Force Recon troops,
the closest thing the marines had to commandos. Detachment One was sent to
Iraq, where it's performance convinced SOCOM that marines could operate at the
As a result, Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC) was organized. This
unit has some 2,600 marines, organized into a headquarters, a two battalion
Special Operations Regiment, a Foreign Military Training Unit, and a Marine
Special Operations Support Group.
The only people the marines had who were trained to SOCOMs highest standards
were the troops in the four Force Recon companies (one of them a reserve unit).
So, naturally, the marines recruited heavily among Force Recon units in order
to build MARSOC. As a result, the 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company was
disbanded. In effect, an enhanced version of the 2nd Force Recon was created
with the formation of Fox company within the new MARSOC 2nd Marine Special
Operations Battalion. The two Special Operations Battalions provide a
combination of services roughly equal to what the U.S. Army Special Forces and
Rangers do. The marines feel that, for some missions, Fox Company marines can
perform jobs that SEALs do.
The marines do not intend to just provide some additional Special Forces and
Ranger manpower, but people who can do those jobs, but with the addition of
amphibious capabilities. Eventually, there are to be nine companies in the two
Special Operations Battalion. So far, only four of those companies have been
formed. The company that was banished from Afghanistan was the first of these