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WASHINGTON — Taco Bell’s familiar burritos and chalupas will soon be dished out to troops in Iraq and Kuwait.

Officials from the Army and Air Force Exchange Service announced this week the first Taco Bell in the Middle East will open in Kuwait by the end of this month, and the first in Iraq will come by the end of May.

Maj. Gen. Kathryn Frost, the former commander of AAFES, testified before Congress on Thursday that the tacos represent another big step in offering soldiers overseas a taste of home.

“Sales of merchandise and food are robust in combat theater,” she said. “But as one of my managers told me as I visited the theater, it’s not about the sales, it’s about the smiles.”

AAFES currently operates 27 name-brand fast food restaurants in Iraq, featuring American fare like Subway, Pizza Hut and Burger King. Another 25 — including the Taco Bells — have been approved for development in the coming months.

Judd Anstey, spokesman for AAFES, said names of the other restaurants planned for the combat zones have not yet been released, for security reasons.

Another eight restaurants have opened in Afghanistan since the start of operations there. Frost said fast food sales to troops involved in the war on terror total nearly $8 million each month, despite the free meals provided to troops at dining halls.

In addition to the eateries, AAFES operates 31 exchanges in Iraq and six stores in Afghanistan. Frost said that last year the service lost about $3.1 million in merchandise to ambushes and another $34 million in goods damaged or spoiled in transit to hard-to-reach areas.

But the service averages about $1.5 million in sales each day from those stores in Iraq and Kuwait, and about $173,000 from sales in Afghanistan.


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