Saturday, January 24, 2009

A whole lot of US Marines to Afstan?

The Marines' leadership has been eager to take on a major role for some time; looks more and more likely (via Spotlight on Military News and International Affairs):
Up to 20,000 U.S. Marines could be deployed in Afghanistan as part of a planned major troop build-up to battle worsening insurgent violence, the top U.S. Marine officer said on Friday.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway said any buildup of Marines in Afghanistan would have to be accompanied by an equivalent cut in the 22,000-strong Marine force in Iraq to maintain the corps' schedule of seven-month deployments.

U.S. military planners have proposed injecting up to 30,000 U.S. troops into Afghanistan over the next 12 to 18 months to combat an intensifying insurgency from Taliban militants and other fighters.

The United States now has 34,000 troops in the country, including 2,200 Marines [Marines have been alongside the CF in Regional Command South since spring 2008].

But Conway told reporters that sending too many Marines to Afghanistan could jeopardize the corps' ability to resume training in vital areas, including amphibious landings, after a hiatus of several years.

"We hope that the number is 20,000 or less," he said...

Marines would likely be deployed to southern Afghanistan [emphasis added] where NATO commanders say there are not enough troops to combat growing Taliban influence in the countryside.

Conway said the expected Marine deployment to Afghanistan would include at least one squadron of tilt-rotor MV22 Osprey aircraft, the half-airplane half-helicopter made by Textron Inc. and Boeing Co..

"It's made for a place like Afghanistan," he said, adding that the Marines and U.S. special forces were installing a belly gun to the Osprey to make it more effective against insurgents in Afghanistan [Marine Ospreys have already been operating in Iraq].

He said the Marines are also working to modify the blast-resistant vehicles designed to protect troops from roadside bombs.

The marine-resistant ambush-protected trucks [the Canadian Army has its own], or MRAPs, have not performed well off-road and Conway said the Marines would test a new version in the barren Afghan landscape that uses independent suspension instead of a heavy axle.

"The initial tests have been somewhat encouraging," Conway said. "We're looking at how rapidly we can prove the product before doing a massive overhaul of vehicles we've got and get them to Afghanistan [there's been some controversy about the Marines and MRAPs]."..
If the above numbers for Marines are close to right, they will make up at least half the US "surge" in Afstan. And right about now these soldiers should be arriving:
[A] new Army brigade, the Third Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum, N.Y. ...of 3,500 to 4,000 soldiers. The “vast majority” of them will be sent to Logar and Wardak Provinces, adjacent to Kabul...
Update: More on MRAPs:
Roadside bomb attacks against coalition forces in Afghanistan hit an all-time high last year, killing more troops than ever and highlighting an "emboldened" insurgency there, according to figures released by the Pentagon.

Last year, 3,276 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) detonated or were detected before blowing up in Afghanistan, a 45% increase compared with 2007. The number of troops in the U.S.-led coalition killed by bombs more than doubled in 2008 from 75 to 161. The Pentagon data did not break down the casualties by nationality.

Roadside bombs in Afghanistan wounded an additional 722 coalition troops last year, setting another record...

...the Pentagon plans to rush as many as 10,000 new armored vehicles to Afghanistan to counter roadside bombs. Commanders there have issued an urgent request for a lighter, more maneuverable version of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, known as MRAPs. Few paved roads and rugged mountain terrain prevent the use of MRAPs in parts of Afghanistan...


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