Pentagon Discuses Obama Afghanistan Troop Deployments, Drawdown Timeline
News in Balance:
WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2009 -- The United States will send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan by next summer, but plans are to begin transferring security responsibilities to the Afghan forces and withdrawing U.S. forces in July 2011, a senior administration official said today.
The announcement comes as President Barack Obama prepares for his speech tonight at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in which he will articulate a U.S. strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan that culminates months of deliberation with his senior advisors.
“The concept that he'll describe is to surge American forces to do several things,” the official said. “First, to reverse the Taliban's momentum, which has been building steadily over the last three or four years; to secure key population centers, especially in the south and the east; to train Afghan forces; and then as quickly as possible, transfer responsibility to a capable Afghan partner.”
The added troops will bring the total number of U.S. forces to nearly 100,000, and will likely comprise two or three additional brigade combat teams, or BCTs, an official said on background.
In addition to the combat brigades, the United States will deploy a brigade-sized element committed to embedding with and training their Afghan counterparts.
The official added that NATO, which currently has a complement of 42,000 troops in Afghanistan, is likely to make its own announcement this week about its contribution to the multinational war effort.
“I suspect by the end of that conference in Brussels that Secretary General Rasmussen will have an announcement of a significant number of fresh NATO troops to be committed,” the official said, referring to the Dec. 3-4 NATO ministerial meeting.
The aim of training Afghan national security forces is to allow the United States and NATO to transfer lead security responsibilities to Afghan security forces, the official said. That transfer of authority is expected to start by the July 2011 deadline, but the pace will be dictated by conditions on the ground, the official said.
“The slope thereafter is something that will be determined by the commander in chief,” the official said. “But the date that he will use tonight to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan would begin in July of 2011.”
(Report by John J. Kruzel, American Forces Press Service.)