Sunday, November 08, 2009

President Obama nearing Afghan decision/Ospreys in Helmand

Likely big consequences at Kandahar:
Obama wraps up Afghan review, eyes final options

President Barack Obama is wrapping up deliberations on war strategy in Afghanistan and is considering final Pentagon options that include sending about 30,000 more troops, officials said on Saturday.

A deployment of that size would be less than the 40,000-troop increase recommended by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, but more than many of Obama's Democratic allies may support.

Record combat deaths have eroded U.S. public support for the war, and a decision to expand troop levels could become a political liability for the president ahead of congressional elections next year.

Currently, there are about 67,000 U.S. troops and 40,000 allied forces in Afghanistan.

Under one of the final Pentagon options presented to the White House, three additional combat brigades would be deployed and a division headquarters set up near Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, a Taliban stronghold, as part of a 30,000-troop increase [emphasis added--a divisional HQ has been in the works for some time, see fifth para here].

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said Obama has settled on a troop increase but has yet to make up his mind about its size.

Brigades generally include 3,500 to 4,000 troops, though they can swell to over 5,000 troops if other units are attached. Marine brigades can be larger [no kidding-- the current Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan is some 10,000 strong, unit details here].

Obama, who will visit Asia from Nov 12-19, is expected to announce his decision within a few weeks, possibly after Afghan President Hamid Karzai's inauguration. Karzai was re-elected in a controversial poll tainted by fraud...
More details:
As it now stands, the administration's plan calls for sending three Army brigades from the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky. and the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y. and a Marine brigade, [that's four brigades, not three as suggested above, and given the large size of a Marine Expeditionary Brigade really around a total of five] for a total of as many as 23,000 additional combat and support troops [the Marines would come from one of the three Marine Expeditionary Forces, see here, here (the Marine brigade in Helmand is part of this one) and here].

Another 7,000 troops would man and support a new division headquarters [update thought: !?! , surely most actually support troops for the forces, er, generally] for the international force's Regional Command (RC) South in Kandahar, the Taliban birthplace where the U.S. is due to take command in 2010. Some 4,000 additional U.S. trainers are likely to be sent as well, the officials said.

The first additional combat brigade probably would arrive in Afghanistan next March, the officials said, with the other three following at roughly three-month intervals, meaning that all the additional U.S. troops probably wouldn't be deployed until the end of next year...
I would imagine one combat brigade would go to Kandahar/Zabul, one to Helmand (the Marines logically), and one maybe to replace the Dutch next year at Uruzgan or to Paktia, to the northeast of Kandahar in US-led RC East, just past Zabul province; see this post for more on the subject of where new US combat forces might go). Note that the current Dutch commander of RC South has already said at least two more brigades are needed. And someone (guess who) will have to replace us at Kandahar in 2011. The mountain division soldiers would likely go to (mountainous) RC East.

Meanwhile, ten Marine Osprey tilt-rotors have arrived at Helmand, flown off the USS Bataan--see this post for details on their additional armament. More on the US Marines:
Afghanistan: Marines bring some calm in Helmand
But many residents in the insurgent heartland fear the U.S. troops may leave abruptly, leaving the area for the Taliban to retake.
Note that subhead.

Upperdate: See this subsequent post for Afghans seeking, er, commitment:
Afstan: Brits to reduce combat effort to win public support?
Nice irony there, if one reflects.


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