When thousands of US Marines flooded into Helmand eight years ago, they demonstrated Barack Obama’s resolve to quash the Taliban once and for all and leave a peaceful province for Afghans to take over.
Two years after the US flag was lowered, however, the Marines are back, in a sign that things turned out rather differently.
“It feels like Groundhog Day,” said Staff Sergeant Robin Spotts, on his third Helmand deployment. About half of the 300 Marines who have arrived over the past two weeks have served in Helmand before. Even the flag raised in a ceremony on Saturday was the same, having been kept at the Pentagon since October 2014.