V Corps to endure as new ISAF command in Afghanistan
The following correction to this story was posted August 20: An Aug. 19 story about V Corps being sent to Afghanistan to oversee the day-to-day operations should have said that Brig. Gen. Michael Ryan is the deputy corps commander as well as interim corps commander. Maj. Gen. Terry Wolff is interim commander while Ryan is on leave.
HEIDELBERG, Germany — The renewed war effort in Afghanistan means V Corps, recently headed for oblivion, will live to fight another day.
The Heidelberg-based corps would make up the staff of a new command overseeing day-to-day operations in Afghanistan for the next year, and officials said the corps could be staffed there for the next several years in an “enduring mission.”
About 180 soldiers from V Corps’ Special Troops Battalion and soldiers tapped from its subordinate units will spend a year as the first International Security Assistance Force Intermediate Joint Command, to be headed by Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez.
It’s the first of what’s expected to be numerous rotations of corps soldiers under a new Pentagon plan. Troops will be assigned to Heidelberg and then to Kabul in an enduring mission designed to provide a seasoned group of commanders and staffers.
The move is a startling turnaround for the corps. It was set to be inactivated just weeks ago as part of Army transformation. Then there was an announcement that the corps’ inactivation was postponed for a year. Now under this plan, it would remain intact and in Germany for at least the next several years, officials said.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates hasn’t approved the enduring mission, officials said. But V Corps soldiers are to deploy over the next few weeks, and some are already in Kabul.
What’s more, under the proposal, the relocation to the U.S. of two Europe-based brigades, delayed for years, would be on indefinite hold. The brigades would likely remain in Germany as well for as long as the Corps is deployed to Afghanistan. The brigades — the 170th Infantry Brigade, formerly the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division in Baumholder and the 172nd Infantry Brigade in Schweinfurt — were scheduled to relocate to the U.S. in 2012. That plan, part of worldwide rebasing, has been opposed consistently by U.S. leaders in Europe, who said the troops were needed for training with allies, deployments and deterrence.
Now, with V Corps remaining, “They can’t take those other units,” said an official who declined to be identified because the official was not given authorization to discuss the matter. “And let’s be frank: The new administration is more NATO-centered.”
The change in V Corps’ fortunes is intertwined with counterinsurgency doctrine suggesting that the regular Army should, like the Special Forces, provide the war effort with experienced and knowledgeable U.S. soldiers, familiar with the local people, local fighters, and political, social and economic situations.
“It’s the JSOC model,” the official said, referring to Joint Special Operations commands. “That’s what [Gen. David] Petraeus wanted.”
The plan has been refined and changed over the past several weeks. Initally, it was determined that V Corps headquarters would staff the new Afghanistan command for the next year, and soldiers were informed of their upcoming deployment.
It was chosen for two reasons, said its previous commander, Lt. Gen. Ken Hunzeker, who is now second in command in Iraq: The corps has a long history of working with NATO; and because the unit was getting ready to inactivate, many of its soldiers had not deployed in a relatively long time.
At some point in the last month, the plan was changed to make the corps’ staffing of the ISAF Intermediate Joint Command an enduring mission. It will fall under ISAF, the NATO supreme command, and focus more on strategy and governance issues, following the Iraq model.
“It would be very much like the corps commander in Iraq under the Multi-National Force-Iraq commander,” Gates said in June, when the new command structure was announced. “So you’ve got somebody with the overarching responsibility for strategy, but [also] somebody working the day-to-day battle.
“The plan is for General [Stanley] McChrystal and the [British] deputy commander, Royal Marines Lt. Gen. Jim Dutton, to have more of a strategic role in looking across the country at a more elevated level in terms of cooperation between civil and military efforts.”
The new command is being formed as 21,000 additional U.S. soldiers and Marines have been arriving in Afghanistan to combat resurgent Taliban fighters and try to protect the Afghan people ahead of Thursday elections — which Taliban leaders have vowed to disrupt — and for what’s expected to be the next few years.
Brig. Gen. Michael Ryan, the deputy corps commander, was named interim corps commander after Hunzeker left in July. Maj. Gen. Terry Wolff is interim commander while Ryan is on leave.
V Corps headquarters last deployed in 2006-2007 to Iraq.
The new Afghanistan command will be based at Kabul International Airport and is expected to have some 800 soldiers, with more than half coming from other NATO nations.
Rodriguez was formerly senior military adviser to Gates, and before that, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division in eastern Afghanistan. He is considered an expert in counterinsurgency techniques.