In a dusty open-air building with houseflies buzzing, Marines here received a call for help. Afghan forces had been ambushed by Taliban fighters wielding machine guns and wanted an American airstrike so they could break free.
Within 20 minutes, an A-10 attack jet responded, killing the fighters with guided weapons and allowing Afghan forces to continue an April 1 offensive in Helmand province’s Nad-e Ali district, said Marine Capt. Jesse Gonzalez, an intelligence officer. It was a success in the Marines’ eyes: The strike occurred after Afghan forces provided enough information for the United States to carry out the airstrike, even though there were no U.S. troops on the ground.
But the operation shows how far expectations have been lowered after more than 16 years of war, with U.S. and Afghan forces seeking to recapture areas that were once under U.S. control.
“We want to get away from just, ‘We’re receiving fire at this position,’ ” said Maj. Wilson Moore, the senior Marine in an operational coordination center with the Afghans. “Well, where is the fire coming from? How heavy is the fire? What kind of weapons are they shooting at you with? . . . Help us out.”