Troops in Afghanistan told to wait for armored vehicles
Stars and Stripes August 8, 2006
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan — A top Central Command adviser promised troops here Sunday that he would work to put more armored vehicles in Afghanistan, but said that the roadside bomb threat in Iraq still outweighs the needs in this country.
The comments of Command Chief Master Sgt. Curtis Brownhill, adviser to CENTCOM commander Gen. John Abizaid on sustainment issues, came in response to a question from 1st Sgt. Jeff Gray of the 755th Mission Support Group during a question-and-answer session.
Gray said airmen and soldiers in his unit routinely rely on “soft-shelled” SUVs when they travel off base, because of the lack of fully up-armored Humvees for the number of missions in country.
Brownhill said commanders are aware of the problem and are working to get better protected vehicles to troops in country. But the insurgency in Iraq and its reliance on roadside bombs are still considered larger threats than Afghanistan’s militants.
“All of our Humvees are being up-armored now,” he said. “It’s just a matter of prioritization, and obviously Iraq is a pretty critical need. It’s based on risk and based on threat.”
Currently all troops leaving base in Iraq must travel in fully up-armored vehicles, according to safety regulations set down by military officials there.
But troops in Afghanistan have no such restrictions. Brownhill said officials have no plans to repeat the Iraq rule in Afghanistan, but added, “I think as the risk continues to be assessed here, I think you’ll see similar decisions being made.”
Brownhill said CENTCOM officials are “comfortable” with U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan currently, and do not anticipate any long-term increase in the number of troops serving in country.
About 23,000 U.S. servicemembers are currently in Afghanistan. Last week, Pentagon officials announced the next rotation of about 11,000 into the country later this year.
Brownhill would not comment on the possibility of a troop drawdown, but did say officials could temporarily increase the number of U.S. troops if security conditions deteriorate.
“I want people to understand if we have to temporarily have more people at a certain time, that is not a trend line we’re seeking,” he said. “The key to this thing will always remain the Afghan National Army being able to take on its own security requirements.”