Marines to Afghanistan

Even though Gates turned it down, this seems sort of significant:

Senior Defense Department officials said Mr. Gates met at the Pentagon on Friday with Gen. James T. Conway, the Marine Corps commandant, and received a formal proposal that would shift Marine forces from Anbar Province and deploy them in Afghanistan.

The proposal was based on Marine Corps concepts in which an integrated “air-ground task force” of Marine infantry, attack aircraft and logistics could carry out the Afghanistan mission, and build on counterinsurgency lessons learned by marines in Anbar.

So much for “listening to the commanders on the ground” (which, for the record, was always totally silly: there’s a reason the President has the title commander-in-chief).

Anyway, the idea sounds like a good one. If Iraq is actually stabilizing, it would seem to make sense to move the Marines over to Afghanistan, where they can focus on planning and executing a single mission. Still, the article gives a fascinating glimpse into the interdepartmental rivalry at DoD:

When word first surfaced of the Marine Corps proposal in October, some officials in the Air Force expressed private fears that its mission in Afghanistan could be ended if the mission went to the Marines, who deploy with their own tactical fighter and attack combat aircraft.

Army officials acknowledged that the idea could streamline their force planning, by giving them only one mission to fulfill — although some Army officers also expressed wariness that the Marines were trying to move from an unpopular war, Iraq, to Afghanistan, which has more popular support.