EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated with information from The Washington Post which was subsequently removed after reader complaints.
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama announced Friday that 4,000 paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division will head to Afghanistan this fall to train Afghan security forces.
“For the first time, this will fully resource our effort to train and support the Afghan Army and Police,” Obama said.
The 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, which is currently slated to deploy to Iraq, will likely be sent to Afghanistan instead to fulfill the training mission, Defense officials said Friday.
The deployment will fill the request by Gen. David McKiernan, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, for a brigade of trainers, a White House official said Thursday.
The need for trainers goes back to March 2007, when commanders first requested 3,400 trainers, mostly for the Afghan police.
Initially, Afghan police were trained by private contractors, but the efforts floundered and the Afghan police lagged far behind the Afghan army.
The need for trainers went largely unfilled throughout 2007 because most of the U.S. military’s trainers were in Iraq.
Since early 2008, a growing number of Marines have been used to train Afghan security forces.
The senior administration official said Thursday that the training mission in Afghanistan had been under-resourced for the past few years, and that the president wants to fix that.
Ultimately, the goal is to train an Afghan Army of 134,000 and a police force of 82,000, he said.
McKiernan had requested a total of four additional brigade combat teams’ worth of troops and an additional combat aviation brigade.
So far, the Defense Department has announced the following units will be sent to Afghanistan to meet his request: The 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division; 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade; 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division; and 82nd Airborne Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade.
The increase in forces to Afghanistan comes as the U.S. military moves to draw down in Iraq.
Even before Obama took office, there were clear indications that the U.S. military was shifting its focus from Iraq to Afghanistan.
Most notably, former President Bush signed an agreement with Iraq that calls for all U.S. troops to leave that country by the end of 2011, regardless of conditions on the ground.