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ARLINGTON, Va. — About 700 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division are preparing to deploy to Afghanistan to help squash resurgent elements of the Taliban and secure the country in advance of upcoming elections, according to Pentagon officials.

The 1st Battalion of the 325th Air Infantry Regiment will leave Fort Bragg, N.C., within two weeks, Pentagon spokesman Air Force Maj. Todd Vician told Stripes Monday.

The troops will “support the coalition in a variety of missions,” Vician said, including providing security for the National Assembly and Provincial Council Elections that are scheduled for Sept. 15.

The 82nd Airborne soldiers will be joining approximately 17,600 U.S. forces already in Afghanistan, including the 82nd’s 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, which arrived in May for a yearlong deployment, its second tour in that country.

The 1-325th battalion is also no stranger to Afghanistan. The battalion was deployed there from February 2003 to February 2004.

Marine Corps Lt. Gen. James Conway, Director for Operations on the Joint Staff, telegraphed the upcoming deployment June 30.

Sending more troops to Afghanistan in the run-up to elections was a “possibility,” Conway told Pentagon reporters.

The upcoming deployment marks the third time Pentagon officials have tapped the 82nd Airborne to assist with election security in the Middle East.

In September 2004, the 82nd Airborne’s 1-505th Parachute Infantry Regiment was sent to Afghanistan for two months to help U.S. and coalition forces secure the country during Afghanistan’s first democratic elections.

Then in December 2004, the 82nd’s 1st Battalion of the 17th Cavalry Regiment was sent to Iraq to support the national elections in that country. The battalion returned to Fort Bragg in March 2005.

The 700 soldiers will arrive “some time in July” and remain in Afghanistan “indefinitely,” Pfc. James Wilt, a spokesman for the 82nd Airborne, said Monday.

They will be used for more than just election security, Vician said. Violence has surged in Afghanistan in the past several months, a “spring resurgence” Vician said Pentagon officials had anticipated as rebels recovered from a particularly harsh winter.

U.S., NATO and Afghan troops have recently fought with remnants of the Taliban and other insurgents, particularly in the east, where the country shares long and mountainous border with Pakistan. On June 28, 16 American troops sent to evacuate a Navy SEAL team died when suspected Taliban guerrillas shot down their MH-47 transport helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade.

Three of the four SEALs also died in the battle; a fourth SEAL, though wounded, was rescued.


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