Turf Wars

A Marine Corps Special Operations company — one of the first of its kind in this world of the uber-joint — was tossed out of Afghanistan following an incident in which 10-12 civilians reportedly were killed. According to a handful of news outlets and sources familiar with the incident, it seems one platoon (along with company’s commander) was ambushed March 4 and engaged the enemy “too aggressively,” as one source put it. In a curious move, the entire company was sent packing to Kuwait by then-head of Special Operations Forces in the Middle East and Central Asia, Maj. Gen. Francis H. Kearney III. A spokesperson was quoted as saying Kearney had decided the Marines (all of them?) “could no longer effectively conduct counterinsurgency operations.” “Inside the Headquarters” asked for clarification from Kearney, now wearing a third star as deputy commander of Special Operations Command but was referred back to his old headquarters. Though there are conflicting reports, some sources seem to indicate that no Marine Special Operations unit has been back in Afghanistan until very recently. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigation into the incident has been completed and is under review by Marine Corps Forces Central Command lawyers. It is unclear when or if the report will be made public.

Interservice rivalry? It wouldn’t be the first time. The Marines’ chief historian noted that during the Spanish-American War the Army did not want the Marines in Cuba, nor did it want them in Europe during World War I. Apparently Army chief Gen. George C. Marshall worked to keep Marine units out of Europe in World War II.

So maybe this not-so-friendly rivalry continues. The Special Operations land domain traditionally has been Army Green-Beret territory. During this shift from green to purple, sources speculate this recent incident might have provided an opportunity to run off any perceived competition.

In the old fuel/fire tradition (probable political realities aside), it seems an Army colonel (brigade commander, no less) apologized to family members of those killed or injured in the incident saying he was “deeply ashamed.” Surprise: Marines outraged! Surprise: reportedly the Corps’ commandant did not agree with Army colonel.

Did we mention the incident occurred while Gen. Pete [Peter J.] Schoomaker was still Army chief? Schoomaker spent much of his career in Army Special Forces and was a former head of Special Operations Command.

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