NATO to further bolster forces in Afghanistan
January 27, 2007
A day after a U.S. combat brigade’s combat tour in Afghanistan was extended, NATO military leaders in the country said at least one additional multinational combat brigade — and perhaps more — was on its way.
British army Lt. Gen. David Richards said the brigade would arrive in Afghanistan “shortly,” but did not specify from which countries the troops would come.
“I anticipate at least another brigade of combat troops from ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) nations coming here shortly and more after that,” Richards said Thursday in Kabul.
On Wednesday, the Pentagon confirmed plans to extend the tour of some 3,200 10th Mountain Division soldiers for 120 days.
Troops in the brigade will make up a “robust border battalion,” partner with another unit in their theater of operations and serve as a theater reserve force, said Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin Freakley on Friday.
The moves come at the end of a year of renewed fighting in Afghanistan, where Taliban fighters have mounted large-scale attacks on both military and civilian targets. NATO and U.S. military officials say the fighters have enjoyed sanctuary in the rugged mountains of the Pakistan border areas, crossing into Afghanistan to launch attacks.
Between 2005 and 2006, roadside bomb attacks in parts of Afghanistan roughly doubled from 865 to 1,745, said Freakley, commander of the task force assigned to combat terrorists.
Last year, the Taliban moved away from attacking U.S. and coalition forces in pitched battles after suffering heavy casualties, Freakley said.
“So we see them reverting to IEDs, indiscriminate IEDs, which I have mentioned, have killed more Afghans than they have our forces, and we take this to be a matter to try to keep up support behind the insurgency, to raise funds for the insurgency and to raise fighters for the insurgency,” he said.
Freakley called the Taliban’s increasing use of IEDs as an act of “desperation” that will ultimately increase support for the Afghan government.
“This is not a popular insurgency, this is a forced insurgency, an insurgency of intimidation by the Taliban,” he said.
Military officials expect the violence to peak in the spring.
Freakley predicted the Taliban would continue in their efforts to take Kandahar to spite Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is from that region.
The NATO force, which assumed command of all foreign troops in the country last year, is about 20 percent short of the troop numbers promised by alliance members, officials have said.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in Brussels, Belgium, on Friday for a meeting of foreign ministers from NATO countries, was expected to urge them to send the troops they had promised, as well as to match an increase of development funding announced by the United States this week.
The Bush administration will reportedly ask Congress for $10.5 billion in supplemental funds to train the Afghan army and push reconstruction projects.
There are currently some 24,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, along with 22,000 from NATO countries.