ARLINGTON, Va. — Army Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, now in command of about 12,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, has been nominated to become the deputy chairman of the NATO Military Committee in Belgium, the Defense Department announced late Wednesday.
Each member country of NATO is represented by a senior military officer. This council is currently headed by Canadian Gen. Raymond Henault. If confirmed by the Senate, Eikenberry would replace U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas L. Baptiste as deputy.
Eikenberry’s position in Afghanistan will not be filled because the headquarters element for CFC-A is slated to stand down at the end of the month, a Defense official said. U.S. troops in Afghanistan will continue operations under a U.S. two-star general.
Since May 2005, Eikenberry has been in command of Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan, which is responsible for hunting down al-Qaida terrorists and training Afghan security forces.
U.S. forces are currently training about 1,500 new Afghan troops per month, and hope to raise an army of 70,000 and a police force of 82,000 by 2009, Maj. Gen. Robert Durbin, who is in charge of training and equipping Afghan troops and police officers, told reporters recently.
Eikenberry leaves his command as the Taliban has made a comeback after being soundly beaten by U.S. and Afghan forces in 2001.
Attacks in Afghanistan have reportedly more than tripled since Pakistan signed a truce last year with pro-Taliban militants along the border.
Initially, then-NATO commander Gen. James Jones downplayed the Taliban offensive in the spring of 2006, but Jones later asked NATO allies to send more troops and equipment to Afghanistan.
Recently, U.S. commanders repeated their plea for more troops, predicting more heavy fighting this spring.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates is reportedly considering extending about 1,200 troops with the 10th Mountain Division originally slated to be in Afghanistan for four months through the end of the year.
In October, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan said time was running out for coalition forces to show real progress in Afghanistan.
“Increasing numbers [of Afghans] will say, ‘Listen, we want you to succeed, but we can’t wait forever. I’ve got children here who need security, who need to be fed, who we don’t want to have the risk of being caught up in fighting, and we’re happy to have fighting as long as we see progress. But if there’s fighting and no progress, then at some stage, we’d rather have the rotten future offered by the Taliban than the hopeful future that we all wish you to deliver, but I’m sorry, you’re taking a bit long in the delivery,’” British Gen. David Richards said.