ARLINGTON, Va. — The 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division is headed to Afghanistan in late summer to replace the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, based in Vicenza, Italy, the Defense Department announced Friday.

The 3,500 soldiers from Fort Hood, Texas, will maintain the current U.S. troop strength in eastern Afghanistan at two brigade combat teams, a DOD news release said.

“In consultation with Afghan officials and NATO, commanders continue to assess the situation to ensure sufficient force levels to best support the Government of Afghanistan, perform counter-terrorism operations, assist with reconstruction, and train and equip the Afghan national security forces,” the news release said.

In January, President Bush authorized sending 3,200 Marines to Afghanistan to bolster NATO forces in the southern part of the county and fulfill part of a long-standing request for 3,400 trainers for Afghan police and troops.

The move came after the U.S. government unsuccessfully asked NATO to help fill a shortfall of about 7,500 troops in Afghanistan.

The Taliban, flush with money from record poppy crops and able to regroup in Pakistan, has been resurgent in parts of Afghanistan since 2006. Late last year, Afghan and coalition forces retook the town of Musa Qala, which had been held by the Taliban since February 2007 after being handed over to Afghan police the year before.

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