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BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — The Italy-based Southern European Task Force has gotten the nod to take over the main field headquarters in Afghanistan next spring, according to Army officials.

SETAF will replace the Hawaii-based 25th Infantry Division, which began its yearlong tour about three months ago as the headquarters nucleus for Combined Joint Task Force 76.

CJTF-76 is primarily responsible for fighting pockets of Taliban holdouts throughout the country and coordinating the ongoing hunt for Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida fighters. Oversight of reconstruction efforts throughout the war-torn country also falls under the purview of the CJTF-76.

There are currently about 18,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. That level is expected to remain steady “for months to come,” Lt. Gen. Norton Schwartz, director of operations for the Joint Staff, told Congress last week.

SETAF will arrive on the heels of Afghanistan’s historic national elections in October — the first since U.S. forces ousted the Taliban regime in late 2001 — and parliamentary elections expected after the New Year.

Commanded by Brig. Gen. Jason K. Kamiya, SETAF is expected to formally replace the 25th ID in March, said Sgt. Maj. Larry Lane, a spokesman for the command. SETAF’s top enlisted solider is Command Sgt. Maj. Iuniasolua T. Savusa.

Designed as Europe’s light infantry rapid reaction force, the 2,000-strong SETAF includes the 173rd Airborne Brigade, also based in Italy.

A variety of units will augment the headquarters, including elements of the Fort Bragg, N.C.-based XVIII Airborne Corps. The 21st Theater Support Command, based in Germany and led by Maj. Gen. Bennie Williams, will provide the bulk of the task force’s logistics assistance.

Although final details are still being worked out, according to command spokesman Maj. Mark Wright, units that are likely to deploy include 29th Support Group, 14th Transportation Battalion and 191st Ordnance Battalion.

Kamiya and Williams traveled to Afghanistan last week for briefings in preparation for the upcoming deployment.

“There are a lot of lessons learned coming out of Afghanistan right now that will definitely be incorporated into this deployment,” said Lane.

The task force is now preparing for field maneuvers and headquarters battle drills at the Army’s Grafenwöhr training center in Germany through September and October.

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