Gates Visits Marines on Camp Leatherneck

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan, Dec. 8, 2010 — Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates today not­ed the val­ue of the work the 1st Marine Logis­tics Group does here for the war effort, and extend­ed his per­son­al thanks.
Speak­ing to hun­dreds of Marines at this base in south­ern Afghanistan’s Hel­mand province, Gates said the Marines, as always, are fight­ing the tough­est fight, and that the logis­tics and main­te­nance sup­port they pro­vide for com­bat forces “is crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant as to the suc­cess­es that we’re enjoy­ing.”

In addi­tion to thank­ing the Marines, and as he has done dur­ing oth­er troop vis­its this week, Gates said he’s well aware that it’s espe­cial­ly dif­fi­cult for deployed ser­vice­mem­bers to be away from their fam­i­lies dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son, and that it’s tough on their fam­i­lies as well. 

“I just want­ed to ask you, the next time you’re in touch with them — through e‑mail or how­ev­er you com­mu­ni­cate –- to thank them per­son­al­ly from me for their sup­port to you and for help­ing us make the suc­cess we have here in the south,” he said. 

The Marines have made a tremen­dous dif­fer­ence since arriv­ing over the sum­mer as part of the 30,000 addi­tion­al U.S. forces Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma sent to Afghanistan as part of the strat­e­gy he announced late last year, Gates said, not only stop­ping Tal­iban momen­tum, but also revers­ing that momen­tum in many areas. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Richard P. Mills, com­man­der of the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force’s Region­al Com­mand South­west, also was on hand. He told reporters that after suc­cess­es in Helmand’s Mar­jah and Nawa dis­tricts, the San­gin dis­trict is the cur­rent focus of clear­ing oper­a­tions — and that the ene­my knows it may be his last stand in the province. 

The sit­u­a­tion in San­gin, the gen­er­al said, is about the same as it was in Mar­jah four or five months ago, and the ene­my is deter­mined. “You have to under­stand that San­gin is the last piece of valu­able real estate the insur­gent is even able to be around,” Mills said, not­ing that it’s where insur­gents run the drug trade that finances their operations. 

“So he’s got to hold on to San­gin,” he added. “If he los­es San­gin, all he has left is the desert and some of the moun­tains. And he can’t sur­vive there.” San­gin is a tough fight, and will be a fight for a while, the gen­er­al said. “But it’s a fight we will win,” he added. 

The peo­ple of Hel­mand appre­ci­ate the secu­ri­ty and free­dom of move­ment they now have through most of the province, Mills said, and they under­stand why the coali­tion forces are there. 

“Like any peo­ple, they want peace,” he added. “They want it as quick­ly as pos­si­ble, and they want to return to their nor­mal lives. I ful­ly under­stand it, and we’re hop­ing to give them the opportunity.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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