On October 10, a proposal was made by high-ranking military officials that Marine units be withdrawn from Iraq and redeployed to Afghanistan, where once all units were in place, the USMC would take over responsibility for operations there (under NATO command of course).
When the proposal was made, there were approximately 26,000 American forces in Afghanistan and 160,000 in Iraq, including 25,000 Marines, so the numbers do work out – more or less. Unfortunately, of the 26,000 troops in Afghanistan, there are no major marine units, so such a re-deployment would be a major undertaking logistically, and would also require the transplanted units to start from square one in dealing with local populations.
The main argument for the proposal was that it would allow the Marine Corps and the Army to manage troop levels independently; a benefit which hardly seems worth the costs mentioned above.
Anyway, since the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act, the focus of the armed forces has been on cooperation between the services. Splitting the Marines and the Army would certainly be a step backward in this regard.
One retired Army General pointed out that, “there’s going to be a tremendous number of Army soldiers out there, even if, quote unquote, the Marines take over the mission…There are some extraordinarily obvious flaws in this. The Marines don’t bring any of the infrastructure, logistics, aviation, all of the other enablers that are necessary to fight in this environment successfully.”
After nearly two months with no real action taken on this proposal, last Friday it was officially pitched to Secretary Gates by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James T. Conway. Wednesday, December 5th, the Secretary officially shot it down, citing the need to maintain Marine presence in Anbar Province, Iraq to build on security gains in recent months.
It was an interesting idea, just one that should have been suggested six years ago to have had any chance of getting approved.