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AFGHANISTAN: More Marines ordered to stay longer

August 4, 2008 |  5:50 pm

Afghan77 The Marines from Twentynine Palms, assigned to train the Afghan National Police, have had their seven-month deployment extended by 30 days.

The 1,250 Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment, were expected to return home in early November. But Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, at the urging of senior military leaders, has extended their mission.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited with the 2/7 last month at its base in Helmand province, praising the Marines but noting that the training is hampered by rampant corruption among the Afghan police.

The extension of the 2/7 comes a month after a similar decision was made concerning the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune, N.C.

It's no secret that U.S. civilian and military leaders are frustrated with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for not providing more troops for the fight against the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.

"Some of our allies do not want to fight, or they impose caveats on where, when and how their forces may be used," Gates wrote recently in a widely distributed memo.

NATO countries, Gates noted, have two million troops -- not counting the U.S.

"Yet we struggle to sustain a deployment of less than 30,000 non-U.S. forces in Afghanistan," Gates wrote in the same memo, "and we are forced to scrounge for a handful of helicopters."

Along with extending the 2/7, Gates also approved sending additional U.S. helicopters, possibly from Iraq.

Tony Perry, in San Diego

Photo: Marines and Afghan youth. Credit: U.S. Marine Corps