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500 troops to Afghanistan to prepare for buildup: Pentagon

The first of the additional combat brigades, the 3rd of the 10th Mountain Division, is due to deploy this month.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Jan 16, 2009
Hundreds of troops from a US naval engineering unit will deploy to Afghanistan next month to build facilities needed to accomodate a 30,000-troop buildup, the Pentagon said 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.

The first of the additional combat brigades, the 3rd of the 10th Mountain Division, is due to deploy this month.

It will be followed by an aviation brigade in the spring and two more combat brigades in the spring and summer.

Whitman announced that the 3,500-strong 4th brigade of the 25th Infantry Division based at Fort Richardson, Alaska will deploy to Afghanistan in late February and early March to replace a brigade from the 101st Airborne Division.

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'Insurgents' kidnap, hang Afghan working for NATO: force
Kabul (AFP) Jan 15, 2009
An Afghan working for NATO-led troops in eastern Afghanistan was abducted and found shot and hanging from a tree three days later, the force said Thursday, blaming the murder on insurgents.

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