The famed 82nd “All American” Airborne Division Headquarters is deploying to Afghanistan as part of President Barack Obama’s effort to bolster U.S. presence there, the Department of Defense announced Monday.
The 82nd will take over the role of the 101st Airborne Division directing the operations of all American combat troops in Afghanistan. The new commanded will be designated the Combined Joint Task Force – 82nd Airborne, Army Lt. Col Christopher Garver tells Newsmax.
Also being deployed is the 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, headquartered at Ft Carson, Colo., and the 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Division, headquartered at Ft. Lewis, Wash. The deployment will include roughly 9,000 solders, Garver said. Also included in the mix are 8,000 Marines serving with the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade from Camp Lejeune, N.C. All of the combat troops will be under Army command, Garver said.
Obama recently announced the United States is sending 17,000 more troops into the mountainous land known as "the burial ground of empires” for the Afghan’s capacity to outlast every invader that has fought there. In the last 150 years it has driven out both the British and the Soviet Union after bitter protracted warfare that left both powerful nations exhausted.
The buildup will bring U.S troop strength in Afghanistan to more than 53,000 at the same time all of the major supply routes into the country except airfields inside Afghanistan have been closed by former supporters or interdicted by Al Qaeda financed opponents in Pakistan.
During February a key supply line for American and NATO forces in Afghanistan was disrupted by several attacks on bridges and road in the Khyber Pass. Taliban inspired attackers burned trucks carry U.S. supplies, blew up a bridge, and terrorized local drivers, Pakistani officials said.
The U.S. military’s logistical problems multiplied Feb. 19 when Kyrgyzstan's parliament approved a government order closing the Manas air base, used by the United States to transport supplies and troops to Afghanistan. The closure came after heavy pressure from neighboring Russia to close the base.
The air base is a key staging post for the reinforcement and supply of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan. Each month some 15,000 U.S. soldiers pass through it on the way to and from the conflict zone, along with 500 tons of supplies, the Pentagon says.
Bakiev reportedly said that he wants the Manas base closed because the United States is not paying enough for its use, according to Russian news sources.
Top U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have voiced deep regret over the plan.
The importance of the Manas air to the U.S. and NATO mission in Afghanistan has grown significantly in recent months as Taliban insurgents have shown themselves capable of interrupting the main road supply route from Pakistan through the Khyber Pass to Afghanistan.
According to Russian news reports, the United States will have 180 days to leave the base once President Kurmanbek Bakiev signs the bill and the government issues an eviction notice.
Meanwhile Kazakhstan recently announced it was offering its territory for the transit of supplies to coalition troops in Afghanistan, following Kyrgyzstan's unexpected decision to shut a key US airbase.
The Republic of Kazakhstan is the ninth-largest nation in the world; the size of Western Europe. Its leader President Nursultan Nazarbayev has been in office since Kazakhstan became independent from the Soviet Union after it fell apart. In 1995 Nazarbayev called for a referendum that expanded his presidential powers, making him a virtual dictator.
"Kazakhstan has given its consent to the transit of cargo by land for the logistical material for the US contingent in Afghanistan," Kazakh foreign ministry spokesman Yerzhan Ashikbayev told reporters.
"We are only talking about non-military materials," he emphasized.
Tajikistan also said it was ready to allow US and NATO supplies for Afghanistan, including construction materials, medicines, fuel and water, to transit its soil by road.
Neither country will allow military supplies such as weapons and ammunition to cross their territory, their governments have announced.
The so-called “Stans” completely surround Afghanistan with the exception of Iran, which is a vocal opponent of U.S. and NATO policies in the region.
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