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Excerpts From Nicholson's Address To Troops

Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, commander of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, addressed his troops in Afghanistan before the operation launched early Thursday against Taliban-occupied areas.

Following are excerpts from his remarks at Camp Leatherneck in Helmand province.

On the mission in the Helmand River valley:

Our job is to get in there and get it back [from the Taliban] ... We don't want to give the enemy one second to think about what he's going to do. Because we're going to be pushing so goddamn hard on the enemy. Our job is to go in there and make contact with the enemy — find the enemy, make contact with the enemy and then we'll hold on. This is an enemy that's used to having small-scale attacks and having the coalition pull back. There is no pullback. We will stay on him, and we will ride him until he's either dead or surrenders.

On the threat of roadside bombs:

Now, I'm concerned about the IEDs [roadside bombs] and I know you are, too. There's a hell of a lot of IEDs out there. As we get in there, we're going to get a better feel for who these people are who are putting them out. We're going to work the networks. And we're going to kill the guys that have a chance to go out there and lay them. But they are out there, and you need to know that.

On putting the Taliban on the defensive:

All too often, it is us who have to think about where we're going to go, where we're going to attack, what we're going to do. In this case, we're going to be so thick in his AO [area of operation] that he's going to have three choices: Stay and fight, which we hope he does; try to blend into the population and just pretend he's a local, in which case the Afghan army and police can sure as hell help identify that along with local leaders; and the third thing is run. And if he tries to run, we've got people waiting for him.

On the Marines' training and preparation:

You probably know the name of every little terrain feature in that AO. And that's good. Because you're going to need to. You're going to need to very quickly get into his turf and get comfortable and make him the guy on the run. Make him the guy who's going to have these decisions as to what he's going to do.

On defeating the enemy:

We'll kill and capture a hell of a lot of enemy over these next couple of weeks, I'm confident of that. And I hope the enemy does try to go chest-to-chest with you. It would be a hell of a big mistake, and I don't think his last mistake. And I suspect we'll see some of that.

On supporting the Afghan people:

We need to make sure we understand that the reason we're here is not necessarily the enemy. The reason we're here is the people. What won the war in al-Anbar province [Iraq] and what changed the war in al-Anbar was not that the enemy eventually got tired of fighting. It's that the people chose a side, and they chose us. We offer the one thing the enemy can never offer, and that's a future; that's hope. The people are looking to you.

On the need to minimize civilian casualties:

We'll surround that house and we'll wait. And here's the reason: If you drop that house and there's one woman, one child, one family in that house — you may have killed 20 Taliban, but by killing that woman or that child in that house, you have lost that community. You are dead to them. You are done. And when I talked to the governor [about this scenario], I said, 'Yeah, but governor, we will have killed 20 Taliban.' And he goes, 'Yeah, but you will have also killed the local family, and the people will always remember that.' The Taliban didn't kill that local family. You did. And as far as they're concerned, you killed locals and you're done. They will do anything they can at that point to help the Taliban and help the enemy against you.

On the media:

I tell you, personally I want the media out there because we've got a hell of a story to tell. I'll tell you, I've never in more than 30 years regretted embedding the media with the Marines that we've been associated with.

On the conditions in enemy territory, in the desert:

Bottom line, fellas, it's hot. It's gonna get hotter. Your packs are heavy. They're gonna get heavier. Our resupply to you is going to be tough. We're focused on getting you water. We're focused on getting you ammo. Chow will come later. Anything else will come later. We'll get you all the water and ammo you can use, but a lot of it may be by air drop, because the roads to get to you may not be open. And like I said, there is no cavalry. There is no reserve. You're gonna fight. And you're gonna stay there, and you're gonna fight until you win.

Final words:

Bottom line, fellas, is that this is the moment. This is the moment you've trained for. This is the moment you came into the Marine Corps for. This is the moment that all of us have been waiting for for a hell of a long time.

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