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Aug-11-2009 03:30printcomments

U.S. Marines and an Afghanistan Ghost Town Called Now Zad

"...they are required to patrol that city/town, and little by little, these boys/young men are being maimed, or taken from us..." -Family of a Marine

U.S. Marines position themselves before attacking a Taliban stronghold in Now Zad, Afghanistan
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Kyle Page (right), and an Estonian Defense Forces service member make their way over rubble in Northern Now Zad, Afghanistan, as a controlled detonation explodes behind them on Oct. 26, 2008. DoD photo by Sgt. Freddy G. Cantu, U.S. Marine Corps

(SALEM, Ore.) - Questions are beginning to circulate about the spike in Marine Corps casualties in Afghanistan.

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl.
Zachary Picking sweeps Now Zad
for IED's Sept. 12, 2008. Photo by
Sgt. Freddy G. Cantu, U.S. USMC. has been reporting about the increasing numbers which represent an entirely different rate than anything the Corps has seen in years.

One place where Marines are continuing to draw attacks is Afghanistan’s toughest ghost town, called Now Zad. The Wall Street Journal's Michael M. Phillips wrote in late May that senior commanders turned down a request from the Marines to dispatch a 1,000-man battalion to the town.

Instead he says they prefer, "to concentrate forces in areas with more hearts and more minds. Yet the military says keeping a lone company in Now Zad 'fixes' the insurgent force in place, even if outright victory isn’t possible." (see: Wall Street Journal: Stalemate in Afghanistan)

Now, more than two months later, Marines are still fighting for this seemingly unimportant, abandoned and remote village.

Now Zad, Afghanistan is in the Northwest section of the troubled Helmand province, which is located West of the Kandahar province which has been a major scene of fighting in this war.

One family member writing to asked, "Why they are making these young men patrol a city that is DESERTED?...can they answer that?"

"My heart is broken that all these young men are dying in Now Zad and the surrounding areas of Afghanistan....recently Argentine, Lembke, and Whittle.....or, losing limbs."

(story continues below)

NOW ZAD MORTARS - U.S. Marines fire mortars at enemy targets from Forward Operating Base Now Zad in the Helmand province
of Afghanistan, Oct. 26, 2008. The Marines are assigned to Foxtrot Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Chad J. Pulliam

FOX News Reporter Andrew Stenner wrote on July 23, 2009, "In Now Zad, located in northern Helmand Province, the Taliban threatened to kill the local population if they didn't abandon the town and proceeded to rig it with improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. In response, a company of Marines fought to reclaim the area from the enemy." (see: FOX News - American Heroes: Marines in Afghanistan)

But the fighting in this remnant of a town continues.

Op Silica Now Zad, Helmand Province Afghanistan: A CH-47 comes in
to land carrying the final members of K Company, 42 Commando
Royal Marines Photo: British Royal Marines

And with the news that Now Zad's residents were forced out by the Taliban, the Telegraph UK reports that, "A number of the dispossessed from the towns of Nowzad, Sangin or around Kajaki moved elsewhere – but with little to sustain them, many joined the Taliban for personal survival rather than ideological choice." (see: Telegraph UK - Afghanistan: We are Fighting Ghost Soldiers)

I reported from Afghanistan in 2007 that the Taliban reportedly paid more than the Afghan National Army, causing a high attrition and deserter rate among ANA recruits, who frequently went AWOL with their uniforms and even weapons.

This region of Afghanistan according to several reporter's descriptions, resembles a WWI battlefield like Flanders or The Somme. Close proximity firefights are not uncommon as Marines encounter Taliban forces on patrols in places like irrigation ditches.

The town of Now Zad continues to be extremely dangerous, but perhaps if the Marines had sufficient numbers they could tilt the scales back the other way.

A few years ago the entire military operation in Afghanistan was severely compromised by another war that drew the lion's share of resources. Even President's Obama's boost of troops to 60,000, with the surge of Marines going into Afghanistan in April, seems like too little.

The politics mean little to the Marines on the ground who who keep up the fight against Taliban militants, or to their families who see Now Zad as not just a ghost town, but a great mystery in the general sense. "I just don't understand it....There's no oil, there are no civilians, no livable city, no infrastructure...there's NOTHING...and yet, they are required to patrol that city/town, and little by little, these boys/young men are being maimed, or taken from us..."

"WHY are we in a deserted town? What are we doing?"

Members of Congress and the U.S. Senate reading this story know what to do.

The American public and military have both taken more than a beating in recent years. The war in Afghanistan has to be fought with sufficient numbers.

The U.S. Army is also paying a big price right now. The U.S. Navy recently lost a Corpsman serving with Marines and only days have passed it seems since the last Air Force war casualty was reported. The right approach isn't a bad idea when you send your troops to fight a war in a place that has been invaded many times, but never really defeated.

It is vital that Now Zad does not go down as this war's Hamburger Hill.

Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as's Executive News Editor.
Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines. Tim holds numerous awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), the first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several other awards including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Serving the community in very real terms, is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website, affiliated with Google News and several other major search engines and news aggregators.
You can send Tim an email at this address:

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Wendy Sells June 30, 2015 1:40 am (Pacific time)

a Ghost Spirit

sherry November 1, 2009 3:58 pm (Pacific time)

tim my grandson was just sent to now zad from bakaw. i pray he will come back to us. this is just plain stupid. why doesn't the pres. bring our boys home where they need to be. most of these young men will never be the same if they make it back.

Rebecca October 16, 2009 5:27 pm (Pacific time)

My son-in-law and many of his buddies are there risking their lives every day. Women being raped innocents being harmed, no way. May he and his buddies help to stop the evil. I have never believed in war. The bottom line is for centuries we as people have engaged. I pray for all our young innocent minds that are there, that they have the strength to endure the darkness in this world and remember God, every day. Pray with me. I believe the real story of why we are there is dark also, but the bottom line is we are there. Let's pray for these young men. Stop the negatives just accept and send love an light.

andrew September 26, 2009 7:54 pm (Pacific time)

tim i was one of the first marines in nowzad with fox co. 3rd plt. 2/7 in summer of 2008 at the time i didnt know why we were their but i can tell you from first hand expierenc our
presence there is absolutly causing the taliban massive problems if you get a chance to go there tell the guys there keep up the good work and kill bodies.

Tim King: Semper fi to you brother, and if I get there I promise I will...  

Chris August 13, 2009 7:18 pm (Pacific time)

After sitting down and thinking about it for a while, I do believe we crossed paths while in Now Zad. I think the imagery you have on the area was provided by me. Correct me if I am wrong. I was with 3/8 and would like to say you were out there around May or June. Am I correct in saying this?
Semper Fi Tim! Good Work

Tim King: Chris, I unfortunately wasn't there at that point, in fact I have spent time in other parts of the country but not Helmand.  I hope we do cross paths sometime, I would like to be over there by October if it is possible.  We are working on a PBS documentary on PTSD and running this daily news site.  Were you in Iraq last year?  I was around different Marines in Anbar just a year ago at this time.  Semper Fi brother

G/-3; August 13, 2009 4:57 am (Pacific time)

Semper Fi Chris. I want 'em home and aware,we swore an oath to defend the constitution from tyranical forces who wish to pervert it for their own greed., and are perfectly willing to sacrifice Marines or any one else to achieve their ends. We didn't know the deception over Vietam or Iraq Onetill years after the fact, but everyone felt there was something wrong from the git go.We still behaved like Marines and it's a hell of a bind to be in.May you and your unit return safe,and may the paople of that region quit getting lives terminated for the goal of oil control. If freedom were the reality of our mandate I would hold my opinion.I believe this is the ruse that get people like myself for one,and lots of others,to put it on the line. In the end,we put it on the line for each other. I mean no offence,again,Semper Fi!

Chris August 12, 2009 7:50 pm (Pacific time)

As a Marine that was deployed to Now Zad for eight months I feel I can speak with confidence about the current situation over there. The Marines over there area doing a great job for the people. They may not see it because there is very little interaction with the local populace but they are making a difference. Yes the city is completely deserted and the only people that move around within it are enemy fighters, but Now Zad the city is not what we are interested in. It is the outer lying cities with simple people that want nothing to do with this war but are trying to survive. The enemy fighters will come into their homes at night to kidnap, beat, rape, and murder these simple people. What would you have the Marines do in this situation? Stand by and watch? NO! NO! NO! They are humans just as you and I and bleed the same blood. It is not their fault that they are unable to protect themselves. So that is where we come in. To Help! That is all we are trying to do over there.

As a Marine that has done his fair share of combat deployments I can understand how a Marine may feel about serving no purpose in a particular area but they need to suck it up. They are Marines and will conduct themselves as such. They on a small scale may not see the picture, but someone much higher has a purpose for Now Zad. It plays a significant role in the lines of communication for the enemy fighters of the Helmand Province. We must intercept those lines. Yes it sucks when we lose brothers and friends but that was the ultimate sacrifice we were willing to make when took the oath to become Marines. If this message has offended anyone in any way, I am sorry. I am just speaking the truth as a Marine who has experienced the Now Zad area and the Corps. Semper Fi

Tim King: Semper Fi Chris

Anonymous August 12, 2009 2:43 pm (Pacific time)

I have not done enough research to actually see how badly people were being treated before the U.S. got there. But people are being treated badly everywhere. Palestine (which the U.S. does nothing about) and even in our own country where veterans are homeless on the streets. People are losing their homes, and living in the streets. Afghanistan is nothing but territory for an oil pipeline and world domination, no matter the cost. A former CIA translator (Sibel Edmonds, you should do some research) is trying to get her story out. Bin Laden/al quaida/taliban was created by the CIA and worked for the CIA up until 911. And, the comment by Vic is fact. Until people realize the simple fact that people such as rockefellers/rothchilds (who have been around for centuries) have no agenda but world domination, the truth of the debate is null and void.

Vic August 12, 2009 1:24 pm (Pacific time)

I might add...the worn out and stupid reasoning that "we are over there, right or wrong..we need to finish the job" ..would that hold up re a gang rape? I mean, once the gang rape starts, everyone has to have their turn, right? Once we have started the gang rape, we should see it through, right? These guys volunteered for this gang rape and to pull out now would be dissing the guys who have waited patiently for their turn, right? And those of you who dont like this analogy..I agree, it isnt fair. War is worse than rape and includes rape,murder of innocents and pretty much every human form of evil. No decent human being can support a war of conquest and invasion for profit. Not one.

Vic August 12, 2009 1:14 pm (Pacific time)

Andy, you want to kill Afghanis so bad, why dont you reenlist? And what does "fight this thing to the end" mean? The end of American credibility and morality? The end of our economy? Fight till we have killed all the Afhanis? There are two kinds of Americans..those who think we have some kind of mandate from God to invade and kill brown people and the decent Americans. All you warmongers that want to kill and "fight for our freedom" (what a pathetic joke) get the hell down and enlist. Go satisfy your bloodlust. Decent Americans dont want you, need you, or want you around the rest of us. And Tim, these guys are "bad" and keeping Afghanistan from being prosperous???? So because we are the police of the World, we have to bankrupt our country and get a lot of people killed? Why is it OUR problem? There are lot of "bad" people..when do we start bombing China, Zimbabwe, Israel, Chad, Nigeria, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Utah, Alabama and all the other places where there are bad guys who mistreat women and are religious fanatics ? This war is about nothing more than pretend otherwise is dishonest and naive. Do you really think tha this is about the Taliban being a-holes (they are) and not about the Caspian Sea pipeline? Do you really think that this invasion and bombing campaign is some kind of humanitarian mission? I hope no other countries decide to "help" the US by slaughtering thousands of us and invading and occupying our country. What about our "bad guys"...when wll someone bomb Wall Street and the Pentagon and the Capitol bldg. so that we can be liberated from our fascist government? When do we get "help" ?

Val August 12, 2009 11:28 am (Pacific time)

My son is there. SIX young men have lost their lives, and at least two others have lost their legs. The town is not inhabited, so what is the POINT? I pray and hope for their safety as well.

Vic August 12, 2009 7:51 am (Pacific time)

Sounds to me, Tim, like you support this war in Afghanistan....why? Have you signed your son up? Why the hell are we there? Because of 9-11? It was Israelis, not Afghanis that were caught filming the planes hitting the towers and high-fiving and cheering...why arent the marines in Tel Aviv bombing Bar Mitzvahs and Israeli weddings ? Anyone who believes that a ragtag bunch of cave dwellers with box knives got the USAF to stand down for hours while they flew hijacked planes around at will,suspended the laws of physics and caused steel frame buildings to collapse at free fall speed from fires (something that had never happened in the history of the world, and has not happened since)is a naive fool. Seems to me it would have been better and cheaper to pay the Afghanis to protect the proposed Caspian Sea pipeline instead of this murderfest that has cost a fortune and gotten us nothing. The so-called leader of Afghanistan cannot leave his compound without AMERICAN bodyguards because his own people want to kill him for being a traitor...sounds like a real popular guy. Maybe "the right approach" is to get the hell out of other people's countries and quit trying to be The Boss of Everyone.

Tim: Vic, you know I hate seeing these guys killed and maimed like this.  I am not pro war but these guys we are fighting truly and honestly treat people really super bad and they keep Afghanistan from being prosperous.  I talked to a lot of Afghans who were glad to have Americans there keeping the Taliban at bay.  It is pretty convincing when you hear it that way.  Conversely, I hear no such comments in Iraq at any point.    

Andy August 12, 2009 5:21 am (Pacific time)

I don't understand the people questioning our continued presence in Now Zad. It does not matter what is or is not there. The Taliban is there and thats a good enough reason to stay. Destruction of the Taliban is the goal. Where they are we should be. My son is with the Marines in Afghanistan. As a former Marine infantryman myself I sometimes wish I could be there with him. I understand the frustration of some of the folks but we must fight this thing to the end. May God bless all those who are in Afghanistan and Iraq and grant them victory.

G/2-3 August 11, 2009 11:29 pm (Pacific time)

Osama Bin Ladin's FBI wanted poster doesn't list any involvement with 9-11. The official FBI rationale as of this week,according to their official website, is "no hard evidence linking him with the terror attacks of 9-11" Mr. president,what is the real story? What the hell are we in Afganistan for? Mr. president,who is behind the attacks on our country?

cassie brown August 11, 2009 6:54 pm (Pacific time)

Thanks for writing this. My husband recently arrived to Now Zad about a week ago. It's been hard, we are newly married as well. I hope for for all of their safety

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