Military officials: Obama leaning toward 34,000 more troops for Afghanistan
President Barack Obama has begun to favor a plan that would send an additional 34,000 U.S. soldiers to Afghanistan, military officials told McClatchy Newspapers according to a Saturday report.
The president’s current plan would require 23,000 soldiers from Fort Campbell and Fort Drum to deploy. An additional 7,000 would support a division headquarters in Kandahar, with 4,000 more trainers coming with them, McClatchy reporter Jonathan S. Landay wrote.
The report continued: “The first additional combat brigade probably would arrive in Afghanistan next March, the officials said, with the other three following at roughly three-month intervals, meaning that all the additional U.S. troops probably wouldn’t be deployed until the end of next year. Army brigades number 3,500 to 5,000 soldiers; a Marine brigade has about 8,000 troops.”
President Obama has been criticized by Republicans for “dithering” on making a decision whether or not to escalate troop levels in Afghanistan. Speaking to right-wing television outlet Fox News on Thursday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) claimed that he is “past angry” with the president for not having a decision in hand.
“The fact is, we already have men and women over there, and, the longer we delay in sending them the needed resources they need, the greater danger they are in,” he said. “And that is just a fundamental fact of warfare.”
Admiral Mike Mullen, commonly attributed as America’s top military officer, took a different position in a recent interview with the Christian Science-Monitor, saying he is comfortable with the president’s time frame and the “depth of the discussion” taking place at the White House.
Should the president — who ran his campaign promising to end the wars — decide to commit more troops, a rough estimate by the Pentagon predicts the escalation will cost up to $20 billion per year, breaking down to some $500,000 per soldier, per year.
“The actual costs could be higher, because the estimate does not include the cost of constructing additional facilities, providing support forces such as military intelligence assets that may be based outside Afghanistan or replacing damaged weapons or equipment,” CNN noted.
An unnamed, senior administration official told Reuters recently that decision may not come for weeks and almost surely not before the president’s trip to Asia from Nov. 11-20.
Officials additionally told McClatchy Newspapers that the administration is highly unlikely to move on Afghan troop levels before discussing plans with NATO allies. NATO’s North Atlantic Council Military Committee meets on Nov. 23.
Currently, some 67,000 U.S. soldiers are in country.