Program Note: We're reporting live from Afghanistan tonight. Anderson is on the ground with U.S. troops in the region, Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports from a hospital in the war zone and Michael Ware is live from Kabul. Tonight 10 p.m. ET.
AC360° Senior Broadcast Producer
The first thing you do after deplaning at Marine Camp Leatherneck is drive – for awhile. The place is sprawling. You pass the contractor trucks bringing fuel, the raw, open desert field where more barracks are being constructed, the huge gravel mountain that will soon be spread across the expanding camp to help keep down the blowing sands.
There are other massive U.S. military bases around the world of course, but maybe none as impressive as this one. There are around 11,000 Marines based out of Leatherneck, and the entire place was scratched from the desert only about eight months ago. It’s now the launchpad for what U.S. military leaders consider the last, best hope to gain control of the southern part of this country from the Taliban.
The Marines are confident they can do it. Yesterday we talked to the Brigadier General Larry Nicholson, the commanding General of the Marine Expeditionary Brigade headquartered here. BG Nicholson says he’s too busy to pay attention to new polls saying the majority of Americans no longer support the mission here.
He doesn’t think of this fight as being eight-years-old, but instead just over two months. Indeed, it was 63 days ago when the surge of Marines arrived here. He says the new strategy of engaging the Afghan population – turning them against the Taliban – is already working. The people of Afghanistan have seen war for 30 years, he says, and they’re tired of it. They want the peace and stability a country without the Taliban can bring.
To execute the new strategy, Marines are constantly deploying from Leatherneck to smaller forward operating bases and combat outposts. Super Stallion helicopters come in and out of the camp at a relentless pace, either ferrying Marines to the remote reaches of the country, or bringing them back to Leatherneck where they’ll go out again in just a couple of days.
Our team spent the night here and we’re now waiting to depart Leatherneck for an operating base further south. As we waited to leave this morning, we had a few down hours.
Some read to pass the time, while others rest up for what we’re expecting – and hoping – will be a Marines-eye-view of this conflict from the remote, front lines.
We’re sharing a helicopter with the 2nd recon Marine platoon that is going to a different location. To make sure we get off at the right spot, the logistics team draws the initials of our destination on our hands with a Sharpie.
It’s a 30-minute ride to our base, and assuming we get off at the right spot, we hope you get a chance to watch the coverage this week.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with