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Army’s 1st Armored Division tapped for Iraq, Afghanistan tours

Staff Sgt. Russell Horton, right, talks to Pvt. Ephrium Nicholson, left, both assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Armored Division Sustainment Brigade, train at Biggs Army Airfield, Texas, March 10, 2017. Soldiers from the 1st Armored Division will deploy later this year to Iraq and Afghanistan.

WENDY BROWN/U.S. ARMY

By COREY DICKSTEIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 29, 2017

WASHINGTON — Soldiers from the Army’s 1st Armored Division will deploy later this year to Iraq and Afghanistan in support of ongoing operations in those long-embattled nations, the Army announced Wednesday.

The division, based at Fort Bliss in Texas, will send 200 soldiers this spring from its Sustainment Brigade to lead logistics operations in Afghanistan, according to an Army statement. About 400 soldiers from the division’s headquarters element will leave later in the summer for Iraq, where it will lead the anti-Islamic State coalition’s ground efforts.

Both deployments are rotations of regular troops replacing units currently deployed, according to the Army. Therefore, they do not represent an increase in American forces in either country, an Army spokesman said. Pentagon officials in recent weeks have discussed increasing the number of American troops in both countries.

The deployments are expected to last about nine months, said Army Lt. Col Craig S. Childs, a spokesman for the division.

The 1st Armored Division’s headquarters, commanded by Maj. Gen. Pat White, will replace the 1st Infantry Division as the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command for Operation Inherent Resolve. In that role, the unit will command the coalition’s mission to train, advise and assist the Iraqi security forces. The unit will also bring a small artillery contingent with it, Childs said.

The deployment could potentially come after the fall of the Islamic State group in West Mosul, its last major urban stronghold in Iraq. Intense fighting has raged in and around Mosul for months led by Iraqi security forces who are backed by American and coalition advisers, artillery and airpower.

Even after Mosul is cleared of the terrorist group, which retains control of its densest neighborhoods in the Old City of West Mosul, the Iraq forces will still need American trainers, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said last week on Capitol Hill.

The Islamic State group does retain some land in rural areas of the country, including along the Syrian border in Anbar Province, and Pentagon officials have said the Iraqis will require continued training to maintain the country’s security group and ensure the terrorist group or another like it is not able to reclaim land.

“We are proud to work alongside our Iraqi allies and coalition partners to continue the fight against [the Islamic State group],” White said in a prepared statement. “I’m also extremely impressed by the commitment and sacrifice of our military families. It is their stalwart support and resilience that gives us the strength to serve.”

The Pentagon is currently authorized to have no more than 5,200 troops in Iraq, but commanders are able to boost that number with short-term deployments that do not count against that cap.

In Afghanistan, the 1st Armored Division Sustainment Brigade soldiers will spread across the country to provide supply and logistical operations in support of the U.S. unilateral counterterrorism mission and the Afghan-led operations against the Taliban.

They will join some 1,500 soldiers from the division’s 1st Brigade, which deployed to Afghanistan in February.

There are about 8,400 American troops deployed to Afghanistan supporting NATO’s Resolute Support mission to train Afghan security forces and the U.S. counterterrorism mission, known as Freedom’s Sentinel.

dickstein.corey@stripes.com

Twitter: @CDicksteinDC

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