500 troops to Afghanistan to prepare for buildup: Pentagon
WASHINGTON: Hundreds of troops from a US naval engineering unit will deploy to Afghanistan next month to build facilities needed to accommodate a 30,000-troop buildup, the Pentagon said on Friday.
The deployment order is going to 500 troops of the 25th Naval Construction Regiment based in Gulfport, Mississippi, which had been scheduled to deploy to Kuwait. “It is fair to say that this is the first of additional (support) forces,” said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman. The Pentagon plans to deploy four combat brigades, an aviation brigade and support forces over the next year to 18 months as part of a 30,000-troop buildup that will nearly double the size of the US force in Afghanistan. Military officials have cautioned that the lack of barracks, air strips and other infrastructure in Afghanistan is an impediment to a more rapid buildup. Another obstacle is the lack of available troops but Pentagon officials said this week they are readying options for an accelerated drawdown of US forces from Iraq should president-elect Barack Obama request it.
That could free up troops for Afghanistan more quickly. There currently are about 33,000 US troops there. Another 142,000 are in Iraq. Whitman said the unit will provide “expeditionary engineering and construction support.” “Obviously, the things that they do will support the US forces that are anticipated,” he said. afp