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Troops in Afghanistan Tuesday offered cautious support for a planned increase of U.S. personnel there, saying that more forces are needed for the war.

In the south, where fighting has been intense recently, U.S. servicemembers have been hoping for reinforcements. Soldiers at Camp Nathan Smith in the city of Kandahar said they were relieved by the news.

“I think it’s good — we can’t effectively do our job without more troops,” said Sgt. Nick Spence, 30, of Albany, N.Y.

Spence, a soldier with the 62nd Engineer Sapper Company, 4th Engineer Battalion — a unit that clears roads of explosives — said the move will either flush insurgents out or send them fleeing to Pakistan.

First Lt. Spenser Bruning, 24, of Seattle, who is in the same unit, said his soldiers often clear roads only to have insurgents come back the next day to plant fresh bombs.

“Increasing combat troops in the south will help us hold terrain,” he said.

In a press conference Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell deflected questions about specifics of the reported 34,000-troop increase, saying that Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other top military leaders will brief Congress on the plans after the president formally announces them next week.

But troops interviewed by Stars and Stripes reporters said that both support and combat troops are needed, not only to maintain current operations but also to show Afghan citizens that the U.S. is committed to the fight.

“You can’t just go in with the bare minimum,” said Spc. Brett Woodyard, a 20-year-old Ohio National Guardsman. “You have to come in force and do it right.”

“We’ve been here since 2001,” he added. “We’ve already committed ourselves. A lot of sacrifices have been made. I think backing out now wouldn’t be a good idea.”

Capt. Michael Bell, an Ohio National Guardsman from 2nd Squadron, 107th Cavalry Regiment — part of a unit mentoring new Afghan National Army troops in northern Baghlan Province — said locals and Afghan soldiers he speaks with have expressed doubt about America’s long-term commitment in the region.

“I think this will signal to our Afghan counterparts that we are committed,” he said.

“I think it sends a message to the Afghans, the soldiers and the enemy. Whether it is enough or not — I think that is above me. That’s for the planners and the generals to decide.”


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