The U.S. general who oversees the nation’s current wars wants an additional 10,000 troops sent to Afghanistan in 2010 beyond the 21,000 newly approved for the current year, according to testimony today during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
If approved by President Barack Obama, the move would bring total U.S. forces in Afghanistan to about 78,000 some time in 2010. That would be an increase of 40,000 troops over the current total.
“There is a request for forces,” Army Gen. David Petraeus, chief of U.S. Central Command, told committee chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. “It did move through me. My understanding is it has not been sent beyond the Pentagon at this time.”
Last fall, [General] McKiernan, who commands U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, asked the Pentagon for four additional brigade combat teams and an unspecified number of combat “enablers” such as intelligence assets, to fight Taliban insurgents and train Afghan army and police. During a February news conference at the Pentagon, he confirmed that he had asked for a total of about 30,000 additional troops, but alluded to the possibility of a decision “later in the year” on sending additional troops.
Defense officials later confirmed that an additional 10,000 troops were part of McKiernan’s original request. It would be composed of a brigade combat team, a division headquarters and additional enablers.
The 10th Mountain Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team arrived in Afghanistan in January. Obama authorized two more BCTs in February, and the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade is en route. The fourth unit, along with additional combat enablers — including about 1,000 whose deployment orders went out last week — will raise total U.S. strength in Afghanistan from the present 38,000 to a projected 68,000, [Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele] Flournoy told the committee.
In addition, Petraeus essentially confirmed that the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division of Fort Bragg, N.C., will indeed serve as the 4,000-member training team authorized March 27 by Obama. A defense official had subsequently confirmed the identity of the unit but the Pentagon still has yet to make an official announcement.