More Troops for Afghanistan?

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 9 months ago

General David Petraeus is apparently going to recommend that a Brigade be redeployed from Iraq to Afghanistan prior to the new administration taking over.

A senior U.S. Defense official who has seen Petraeus’ recommendations to the Joint Chiefs, Defense Secretary Gates and President Bush told FOX News the likely brigade to be shifted from Iraq to Afghanistan is the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Drum, N.Y.

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team is scheduled to deploy in the spring and their training could be shifted to match terrain in Afghanistan instead. The 10th Mountain Division, a light infantry unit, is well suited for such terrain.

Several reports also suggest that Petraeus is also recommending 1,500 Marines also be redirected from service in Iraq and sent to Afghanistan.

The Captain’s Journal has previously weighed in stating that we believe that the campaign will require an additional three Marine Regimental Combat Teams (RCT) and three Army Brigades. We now believe that this counsel was on the low end of the true requirements, and that General Petraeus will be obliged to redeploy much more that he has stated above.

The advisers to President Bush are said to object to the redeployment out of Iraq, and Bush will apparently decide this week. But in the spirit of our previous counsel that we don’t have until next year to bolster forces in Afghanistan, there is a revelation from Operation Enduring Freedom command that convinces us that there won’t likely be a Taliban winter rest this year.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALAGUSH, Afghanistan — American troops in Afghanistan will step up offensive operations this winter because insurgents are increasingly staying in the country to prepare for spring attacks, a U.S. commander told The Associated Press.

Maj. Gen. Jeffery J. Schloesser said a 40 percent surge in violence in April and May was fueled in part by militants preparing stores of weapons during the winter, which generally is a slow period for fighting, particularly in snowy Afghan mountainous areas.

“If we don’t do anything over the winter the enemy will more and more try to seek safe haven in Afghanistan rather than going back to Pakistan,” Schloesser said.

U.S. and NATO officials say militants cross into Afghanistan from Pakistan, where they rest, train and resupply in tribal areas along the frontier where the Pakistani government has little sway.

Schloesser estimated 7,000 to 11,000 insurgents operate in the eastern part of Afghanistan that he oversees — a far higher estimate than given by previous U.S. commanders.

He said the U.S. military realized more militants spent last winter in Afghanistan after speaking with elders and villagers who had been pushed out of their homes. The spike in violence in the spring occurred because insurgents were already in position to unleash attacks, though U.S. officials didn’t know it at the time, he said.

“They didn’t have to come over the passes, they were already here,” Schloesser said during an interview while flying in a Black Hawk helicopter Monday to a small U.S. outpost in Nuristan, a province that borders Pakistan.

Kudos to Maj. Gen. Schloesser for this perspective. The Captain’s Journal loves honesty and forthrightness. The Major General understands the need to continue operations, and so does General McKiernan, who doesn’t want to lose the terrain taken in and around Garmser after the Marines of the 24th MEU took it.

Introducing the general to his officers and senior enlisted, company commander Dynan briefs McKiernan on their recent fight against the Taliban, and the improving situation with the villagers.

Weeks later, McKiernan will explain how the problem with Pakistan and the ISI was affecting the local ground war. “There is a continuing issue of the very porous border with Pakistan and it has allowed insurgent militant groups a greater freedom of movement across that border . . . . They have the freedom to move across the border unimpeded and can easily resupply and recruit in Pakistan,” McKiernan told the Associated Press on 9 July. He added that rocket and mortar attacks launched by militants in Pakistan at U.S. and Afghani border outposts had spiked dramatically in May and June.

But today all the Army general wants to do is talk to “his” Marines. The 24th MEU was deployed specifically to Afghanistan in response to Canadian and British calls for additional American troops, and McKiernan uses it as his Quick Response Force, to be thrown into whatever emergency situation arises.

McKiernan asks Captain Dynan for permission to address the Marines of Alpha Company. Surrounded by Leathernecks, the new commanding general speaks quietly to the young men. “You’ve knocked the insurgents, the Taliban, out of the area,” he said. “They had no idea of how Marines can fight. They do now. You’ve given the locals the courage to stand up with us, and that’s what it takes to win down here.”

Pleased by the recognition, the Marines smile and pepper McKiernan with questions, then take turns shaking his hand. As the general and his entourage depart, the men of Alpha Company prepare for their evening patrols, where they will continue to walk through villages, meeting the locals, and letting friend and foe alike know that the Marines have landed.

Marine Corps Commandant Conway predicted that this would happen.

Conway anticipated the Corps’ predicament when the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, deployed to Afghanistan this spring, to provide a surge of forces there.

“I said, with all due respect … ‘let me predict something: Commanders will fall in love with the Marines because they will do a great job,’ ” Conway said. “There will be a request for an extension. There will be requests to replace them with other Marines.”

The Marines were, in fact, extended. And if new Marines are to fall in behind those slated to depart in November, a decision would have to be made soon.

That could come in a variety of forms. The 26th MEU departed North Carolina in August for an undisclosed location in the Middle East, while the 13th MEU is slated to push out of Southern California in January.

This is the first time The Captain’s Journal has seen in print the possibility that the 26th MEU might be replacements for the 24th MEU. But if this is going to happen, the decision will be made soon. The 24th MEU is scheduled to return stateside in November. Leaving port in January of 2009 and arriving in February of 2009, doesn’t really do justice to the needs of the campaign, although the 13th MEU might also be in the works for Afghanistan if our counsel is followed.

Either way, Operation Enduring Freedom is in dire need of troops, and the security situation is degrading. Security for the population is a hinge upon which much of counterinsurgency turns, and without adequate force projection, we cannot hope to win the campaign. As we have pointed out, at the height, Soviet General Gromov had up to 104,000 troops, while General Petraeus currently has only 32,500.

You are currently reading "More Troops for Afghanistan?", entry #1290 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) 26th MEU,Afghanistan,Marine Corps,Marines in Helmand and was published September 7th, 2008 by Herschel Smith.

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