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Marine general foresees more fighting in Afghanistan region assigned to Camp Pendleton forces

June 16, 2011 |  9:58 am

Hill2 The top Marine general in Afghanistan said Thursday that he foresees increased clashes with Taliban fighters in the region of Helmand province where Marines from Camp Pendleton have been assigned.

Maj. Gen. John Toolan, in a teleconference with reporters at the Pentagon, said Marines, Afghan soldiers and coalition forces will seek to increase security for villagers in Sangin, long a Taliban stronghold and a major opium growing area.

"It will not be without a fight," Toolan said, "but it will not be as significant a fight as in the past."

The Camp Pendleton-based 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment suffered 25 killed and more than 200 wounded during a seven-month deployment to Sangin. In March, the battalion was replaced by the 1st  Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, also from Camp Pendleton.

The province is entering the "fighting season," which covers and summer and fall, as Taliban fighters seek to reestablish control from areas where they were once dominated but now have been pushed to the fringes by the Marines, Toolan said.

Most of the Taliban "are not very well trained" as fighters, Toolan said, but the militants have shown an ability to build and bury roadside bombs, which continue to be the major threat for U.S., Afghan and allied forces.

Three Marines were killed this week in combat in Helmand, according to the Pentagon.


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Photo: A Marine honor guard at Delaware's Dover Air Force Base receives the casket of Lance Cpl. Jason Hill of Poway, Calif., on Tuesday. Credit: U.S. Air Force / Steve Kotecki