Sunday, September 07, 2008

Afstan: Considerably fewer additional US troops now coming in near future?

At least there now is that US Army battalion at Kandahar. Earlier it had seemed as if the US was getting ready to send three additional Army brigades to Afstan over the next several months, plus Marines to replace both their battalion in western Afstan and the Marine Expeditionary Unit in Regional Command South (more on the Marines here). But concerns over Iraq from new US Central Command head Gen. Petraeus look likely to limit additional US forces in Aftstan in the immediate future to one Army brigade for the east in February next year, with a Marine battalion just replacing the one in the west (Farah province) late this year.

That would mean the some 2,300 strong 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which has been operating mainly in Helmand in RC South (British ISAF command province), will not be replaced when it leaves at the end of November. That would leave a pretty big hole in a dangerous province in which there has just been a big success--unless the UK ups its own troop strength considerably. There have been indications it will do so.

Nonetheless it is disappointing that US troop strength, probably until sometime around the middle of 2009 at best, will be around 10,000 less--two Army brigades and one Marine MEU--than has been discussed.

One awaits president Bush's decision, expected next week, on Gen. Petraeus' recommendations.

Update: The ISAF commander in Afstan wants four US manoeuvre brigades--good luck but keep up the good fight:
General David McKiernan has asked Washington to boost US troop numbers with the addition of an extra brigade-size combat force, beyond an already flagged 10,000 increase in the US military presence.

He also wants a commensurate commitment from America's NATO allies and coalition partners, including Australia.

In a candid interview with The Australian in Kabul, General McKiernan said he needed "upwards of four manoeuvre brigade combat teams" - about 15,000 extra troops - to manage the counter-insurgency fight now focused in eastern and southern Afghanistan.

Asked whether he would like to see a greater military contribution from Australia, General McKiernan replied emphatically: "Yes. I think whatever contributions Australia might decide to contribute - whether it's combat arms, combat support logistics or aviation - any of that I would welcome."

Senior ISAF sources in Kabul said US military leaders had made it clear they would like Australia to lift its military contribution to Afghanistan.

But the Rudd Government is insisting on sticking to a strict cap of approximately 1080 personnel.

General McKiernan said the speed at which the US troop build-up in Afghanistan would occur would depend on how quickly troops could be diverted from Iraq.

"My predecessor asked for a minimum of three brigade combat teams (about 10,000 soldiers). I have said that was a valid requirement. But since I got here I have asked for some additional forces in the east.

"I can say that I have asked - and that in Washington, there is an understanding - for a requirement for upwards of four manoeuvre brigade combat teams [emphasis added] with enablers such as intelligence, aviation, logistics that go with that."..
Amazing how openly senior American officers speak.

Meanwhile Paul Koring,the Globe and Mail's man in D.C., writes this ridiculous sentence:
The Pentagon is planning to shift to southern Afghanistan 5,000 troops originally destined to go to Iraq next month...
No time to read the American press, Paul? By the way, that's from a story in which Mr Koring belatedly discovers that the Taliban have a taste for PR. What bright lights we have at our "National Newspaper".

Upperdate: Australia is considering using its infantry in Afstan for combat, now the purview of its special forces (via GAP). See this earlier post:
"When will the government allow our infantry soldiers to do the job they have trained for?"


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