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Terrorism & Security

U.S. Marines ordered to remain in Afghanistan

The US and NATO struggle to maintain troops even as the Taliban reclaim southern and eastern Afghan provinces.

By David Montero / August 5, 2008

With Afghanistan now more dangerous for foreign troops than Iraq, the United States military decided this week to bolster the presence of US Marines in the country.

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The move, the latest in a series, comes just three days after five North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) soldiers were killed in a series of roadside bombings in Afghanistan that underscored the Taliban's resurgence in the country's southern and eastern provinces. The increased deployments indicate the US's mounting frustration with NATO for not providing more troops to tackle the Afghan insurgency.

The US Defense Department announced yesterday that it would extend by one month the tour of 1,250 Marines, the second such decision in as many months, according to the Associated Press.

The decision to extend the tour of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment in Afghanistan comes just a month after defense officials told the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit that it would stay an extra month in Afghanistan.
According to [a senior military] official, the decision to hold the battalion there longer is part of an effort to capitalize on the gains the Marines have made in the training mission. The extension means that the battalion would return home in late November.

The Associated Press report adds that US military planners say they need more troops on the ground.

[C]ommanders have said they need three more combat brigades – or as many as 10,000 troops – to bolster the fight in Afghanistan. And U.S. officials have indicated they would like to send extra brigades there next year.
Military leaders, however, have made it clear they need to free units from Iraq deployments in order to send more troops to Afghanistan. As security in Iraq continues to improve, officials have suggested that units initially headed for Iraq late this year or early next year could be sent to Afghanistan instead.

The Christian Science Monitor recently reported that those three brigades are part of a proposed Afghan surge.

The success of the surge of American troops in Iraq is putting pressure anew on the Pentagon to build a surge plan to counter a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan. But experts warn that it will take more than just additional troops to turn things around there.

There are currently some 70,000 NATO troops on the ground in Afghanistan, with 32,000 from the United States and 38,000 drawn from various NATO allies, reports The New York Times, adding that, "[the] violence has spiked even as the number of foreign troops in Afghanistan nears its highest level since 2001."

About 2,700 people have been killed this year in fighting with the Taliban, including 800 Afghan security forces, according to calculations by the Associated Press.


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