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ARLINGTON, Va. — President Bush has approved sending an additional 3,200 Marines to Afghanistan this spring, the Defense Department announced Tuesday.

The “extraordinary, one-time deployment” will allow commanders to better train the Afghan security forces and expand on military successes from last year, a Defense Department news release said.

About 2,200 of the Marines will come from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and about 1,000 will come from the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, based out of Twentynine Palms, Calif., officials said.

The 24th MEU will temporarily fill the need for a maneuver force in southern Afghanistan, while the 2-7 Marines will help train Afghan security forces, the news release said.

Last year, commanders in Afghanistan requested about 3,400 troops to help train the Afghan security forces, especially police.

“In the run-up to NATO’s April 2-4 Bucharest Summit, the Department will work intensively with Allies and partners to ensure all outstanding [International Security Assistance Force] requirements are filled and the need for future extraordinary deployments by the U.S. or any ally and partner is minimized,” the news release said.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said coalition forces face a shortfall of about 7,500 troops in Afghanistan.

“We will be looking at the requirements ourselves, and we will be talking with our allies,” Gates told reporters on Dec. 21.

But NATO allies have not supplied additional troops to address shortfalls over the past five years, said Michael O’Hanlon, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

“Most NATO countries have been willing to see the situation remain mediocre and not do more themselves,” O’Hanlon said Tuesday.

The U.S. military’s move to send more troops to Afghanistan shows that the debate over whether to pressure NATO allies to provide more forces to Afghanistan is irrelevant given the situation on the ground, O’Hanlon said.

“We’re trying to avoid losing a war that is happening right now in real time.”


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