"Until earlier this month, McChrystal lacked operational control over the Marines, which would have allowed him to move them to other parts of the country. That power rested with a three-star Marine general at the U.S. Central Command. He and other senior Marine commanders insisted that Marines in Afghanistan have a contiguous area of operations — effectively precluding them from being split up and sent to Kandahar — because they think it is essential the Marines are supported by Marine helicopters and logistics units, which are based in Helmand, instead of relying on the Army.
After concern about the arrangement reached the White House, Gen. David H. Petraeus, who heads the Central Command, issued an order in early March giving McChrystal operational control of Marine forces in Afghanistan, according to senior defense officials. But the new authority vested in McChrystal — the product of extensive negotiations among military lawyers — still requires Marine approval for any plan to disaggregate infantry units from air and logistics support, which will limit his ability to move them, the defense officials said.
"At the end of the day, not a lot has changed," said a Marine general, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, as did several other senior officers and officials, to address sensitive command issues. "There's still a caveat that prevents us from being cherry-picked."
The Marine demand to be supported by their own aviators and logisticians has roots in the World War II battles for Guadalcanal and Tarawa. Marines landing on the Pacific islands did not receive the support they had expected from Navy ships and aircraft. Since then, Marine commanders have insisted on deploying with their own aviation and supply units. They did so in Vietnam, and in Iraq.
Despite the need to travel with an entourage, the Marines are willing to move fast. The commandant of the Corps, Gen. James T. Conway, offered to provide one-third of the forces Obama authorized in December, and to get them there quickly. Some arrived within weeks. By contrast, many of the Army units that comprise the new troop surge have yet to leave the United States.
"The Marines are a double-edged sword for McChrystal," one senior defense official said. "He got them fast, but he only gets to use them in one place."" Chandrasekaran
The US Marine Corps continues to seem to think itself the army of some other country. "Marineland?" This is a country that they apparently believe thinks marine independence from the army to be all important. I doubt that the citizens of the United States would support that view.
This situation, one in which the marines have acted as though the US Army is the real enemy, has been building since World War Two. Before that they were too small to be much of a factor in the world. In the '20s and '30s they found a niche for themselves in the doctrine for amphibious operations that they developed. They fought valiantly, if sometimes foolishly, in the Pacific (Peleliu would be the prime example of that). In fact, the Philippine Campaign of 1944-45 was a bigger operation than anything the marines conducted in the Pacific. There were no marines in that. There were no marines in Europe at all. In Korea their one division did well, especially in the disastrous winter of 1950-51. No one should deny that. In VN, they fought bravely at places like Hue, but were notorious for failing to fully entrench defensive positions. "We are assault troops. Don't take the offensive edge of the men!"
The US Marine Corps has long seemed to think that it has some esoteric, perhaps "gnostic" perception of the counterinsurgency business. In Central America and Haiti in the interwar period the marines conducted largely successful COIN operations on the basis of control of the local governments. Using that experience they produced a useful book, "The Small Wars Manual." Nevertheless, marine lore ignores the fact that the US Army had conducted a larger and decisive COIN campaign in the Philippines against the Filipino Insurrectos. In that campaign, under army control there was one marine infantry battalion. They had an unfortunate experience on Samar. IN VN, the marines insisted on carrying on their own version of COIN in the north within their area of responsibility and without much reference to the country wide COIN effort (CORDS).
In Afghanistan, we now have the spectacle of the marines building barriers around themselves to escape the effective control of an army general who is their commander. They negotiated a legal impediment to prevent McChrystal from using their assets as he saw fit? Gentlemen, that is not soldierly behavior. Would they behave this way if a marine general were the theater commander?
In WW1, the army did not hesitate to place Lejeune in command of the army's Second Infantry Division. In WW2 the army did not argue against having a marine general in charge of the 10th Army on Okinawa when Buckner the 10th Army commander was killed. On Peleliu, the army did not hesitate to reinforce the 1st Marine Division with US Army troops from the 81st Division who were available nearby on Angaur having captured their island objective. Those army troops served on Peleliu under marine command.
I continue to be in favor of eventually merging the two forces but marine behavior in Afghanistan calls into question the issue of whether or not the marines can be team players. pl