Obama OKs 17,000 troops to Afghanistan
February 19, 2009
ARLINGTON, Va. — President Barack Obama has approved sending 12,000 combat troops and 5,000 supporting troops to Afghanistan beginning this spring, officials said.
The combat units are the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., and the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, based at Fort Lewis, Wash., the Defense Department announced Tuesday.
“Approximately 5,000 additional troops to support these combat forces will receive deployment orders at a later date,” a DOD news release said.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently told Congress that a third unit could be in Afghanistan by the end of the summer.
Gen. David McKiernan, commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, has requested four additional brigade combat teams’ worth of troops and an extra combat aviation brigade.
“General McKiernan’s request for these troops is months old, and the fact that we are going to responsibly draw down our forces in Iraq allows us the flexibility to increase our presence in Afghanistan,” Obama said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.
No information on troop reductions in Iraq was available Tuesday, according to the White House.
The Marine Corps will send 8,000 Marines in the spring and another 2,000 in the summer to replace the 2,200 already in Afghanistan, a Corps spokesman said Tuesday.
Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway has long advocated shifting Marine combat power from Iraq to Afghanistan.
Conway also has said that any increase in the Marines’ presence in Afghanistan would have to correspond with a decrease in Iraq.
The 4,000 soldiers with the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team are expected to arrive in Afghanistan in the middle of the summer, the news release said.
Gates recently told Congress that a third unit could be in Afghanistan by the end of the summer.
The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division is already on the ground after being diverted from Iraq to Afghanistan, and the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade is expected to arrive in Afghanistan in the spring.
The extra troops are needed to combat a “deteriorating situation in Afghanistan,” where the Taliban are resurgent and al-Qaida is able to operate from safe havens in Pakistan, Obama said in Tuesday’s statement.
“There is no more solemn duty as president than the decision to deploy our armed forces into harm’s way,” he said in the statement. “I do it today mindful that the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan demands urgent attention and swift action.”