82nd Airborne to lead next Afghanistan rotation
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan — The next rotation of U.S. troops to Afghanistan will be led by the 82nd Airborne Division Headquarters and the division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, the Pentagon announced Thursday.
Once various support units from other service branches are added, the deployment will bring some 11,000 American troops to the country. Officials would not immediately say whether the 82nd rotation — which is set for late this year — would increase or decrease the roughly 22,000 U.S. troops deployed to the country.
At the end of last year, the Pentagon announced a drawdown of some 3,000 U.S. troops, but in the face of a revived Taliban presence in southern Afghanistan, that has not occurred.
“In consultation with the Afghan government, commanders continue to assess the situation to ensure sufficient forces levels to best support the Afghan government,” read a Pentagon news release announcing the deployment. “The U.S. force rotations may be tailored based upon changes in the security situation. Afghan National Army forces continue to develop capability and assume responsibility for security in Afghanistan.”
For the incoming troops, U.S. military officials said, being under NATO command in Afghanistan wouldn’t make much in the way of day-to-day changes.
Col. Tom Collins, spokesman for the Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan, said the new U.S. troops shouldn’t expect to see any differences in operations under NATO.
“The mission is essentially the same,” he said. “Americans have been focused on reconstruction … and will continue relentlessly pursuing the enemy. So for soldiers out in the field, not much will change at all.”
Collins said even though the new units will report to NATO commanders, the security force command is scheduled to transfer over to a U.S. general by the end of the year, so the troops will still see the same American presence in their chain of command.
Details on who will assume that post and when the transfer will occur have not been released.
“The U.S. has performed in many missions with NATO in the past,” Collins said. “This really will not be much of a change at all for these troops.”
The 82nd Airborne is among the Army’s most storied and most deployed units, having already served multiple tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, among other locations.
The 3rd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne is headed to Iraq later this month as part of the next troop rotation there. Other units in that Iraq rotation include troops from the 1st Cavalry Division, the 25th Infantry Division and the 2nd Infantry Division.