U.S. to deploy troops to Afghanistan for election security
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is sending up to 1,100 soldiers to Afghanistan to assist in security before the Oct. 9 presidential election there, according to a report in Thursday’s USA Today.
The deployment is in response to growing violence as the election nears, the report states. More than 900 people have died in political violence across Afghanistan this year.
The troops from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division began arriving in Afghanistan on Wednesday, The Associated Press reported. This brings the number of U.S. troops in that country to more than 18,000.
Maj. Amy Hannah, a spokesperson for the 82nd Airborne, told USA Today that troops have begun leaving Fort Bragg, N.C., for Afghanistan, and “there is no specific time period” for their deployment.
The British are reportedly considering sending up to 8,000 soldiers to Afghanistan. However, this would be offset by the withdrawal of an equal contingent from Iraq. British soldiers in Afghanistan number only a few hundred among the NATO-led international security force.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai had requested 5,300 NATO troops to help provide security in the run-up to the vote, USA Today reported. But, only 1,800 have been promised, and most have not yet arrived. They will augment the 6,500 NATO forces now in Kabul and some nearby villages.
Before the deployment of the 82nd Airborne troops, there were about 17,900 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, backed by Army and Marine helicopter gunships and Air Force B-1 and A-10 aircraft. At least 97 U.S. troops have been killed and about 360 have been wounded.
U.S. troops killed three militants in fighting in southern Afghanistan, while a rocket attack on the main American base north of the capital wounded a U.S. soldier, officials said Thursday.
Two suspected Taliban died in a gunbattle with American forces late Wednesday in Uruzgan province, a hot spot for U.S. troops battling Taliban militants, the local mayor said.
Shooting broke out near a village called Poshakan after the two men refused to stop their motorbike when asked by U.S. forces, said Mayor Haji Obaidullah.
He identified one of the men as local Taliban commander Mullah Dur Mohammad.
Obaidullah said Afghan forces arrested another Taliban commander, Mullah Usman, during a search operation on Tuesday in nearby Kalatak village.
The fighting came on the heels of a series of incidents Monday that left three U.S. soldiers dead and 14 wounded, underlining Afghanistan’s fragile security less than three weeks before national elections, which Taliban rebels have vowed to disrupt.
The Department of Defense identified the dead as Spc. Wesley R. Wells, 21, of Libertyville, Ill., Staff Sgt. Robert S. Goodwin, 35, of Albany, Ga., and Staff Sgt. Tony B. Olaes, 30, of Walhalla, S.C.
In another incident on Wednesday, three rockets were fired at Bagram Air Base, the hub of U.S. military operations.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.