Pentagon: Majority of Afghan Surge Units Now Selected
News in Balance:
WASHINGTON, Dec. 10, 2009 -- The military component that coordinates the forces that fight America’s wars has allocated almost all of the troops that will take part in the Afghanistan surge.
U.S. Joint Forces Command, a support beam in the Defense Department’s policymaking structure, is formulating plans to carry out the influx of 30,000 U.S. forces that President Barack Obama has ordered into Afghanistan over roughly the next six months.
“We know the magnitude of the efforts,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Yates, director of operations, plans, logistics and engineering at Joint Forces Command, said yesterday. “We are getting final details on some of the requirements; we know most of them.”
Obama last week announced a U.S. strategy for Afghanistan that entails bringing the number of forces to about 100,000, with the flexible goal of beginning to withdraw troops in July 2011. Just over half of the surge forces have been identified and informed of their upcoming deployments.
The responsibility for coordinating such rotations falls to Joint Forces Command. Department officials announced this week that some 1,500 Marines from Camp Lejeune, N.C., will deploy later this month, and 6,200 Marines of Regimental Combat Team 2 at Camp Lejeune were alerted for deployment early in the spring.
The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, Calif., also will deploy 800 Marines in the spring, along with an influx of 3,400 soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y., department officials said.
For its part, Joint Forces Command is putting together “courses of action” -- plans that detail a force composition based on troop availability, military specialties and other factors. Command officials will provide those plans to the Joint Staff, Yates told reporters on a conference call.
“The Joint Staff will then decide on [a plan], and those will be the forces that will be flowed into Afghanistan,” the general explained.
The unveiling of the new U.S. approach to Afghanistan and Pakistan culminates months of deliberations the president held with senior advisors. While Joint Forces Command officials generally are tight-lipped regarding specific requests it receives from commanders, the command’s chief of staff said previously that the command would be included in the decision-making process in relevant ways.
In an interview in Norfolk before the president’s announcement, Air Force Maj. Gen. David M. Edgington said Joint Forces Command was prepared to collaborate with each service branch in a process of finding the right units with the right combination of skills, training and availability to deploy.
“We’ve got to know what their training status is so that we can deploy a combat-capable unit,” he said in October. Invoking a mantra of the command’s commander, Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, Edgington added, “We will not deploy anybody who is not trained for the mission.”
The command’s goal is to anticipate such requests and have necessary personnel identified and accounted for 18 months in advance of commanders’ needs, but officials often must adapt quickly to changing demands on the ground.
(Report by John J. Kruzel, American Forces Press Service.)