US sending over 1,000 additional Marines to Afghanistan

A marine carries his belongings at Miramar Marine Corp Air Station, December 17, 2010.

From Elisabeth Bumiller, the New York Times:  The United States will send more than 1,000 additional Marines to Afghanistan this month to try to solidify progress in the south before troop reductions begin in July, American military officials said Thursday.

The majority of the forces will be sent to Helmand Province, where 20,000 Marines have made gains against the Taliban but where fighting remains intense in insurgent strongholds like Sangin. American commanders are under pressure to quell the violence and sustain their gains in the first six months of 2011, when the White House will assess whether a troop increase for the nearly decade-old war is working. …

The 1,000-plus Marines are part of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, a reserve force currently deployed in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. Central Command officials said the Marines would go to Afghanistan for about three months. The rest of the expeditionary unit will remain aboard ship for other contingencies, military officials said. …

“The coming debate is bigger than this,” said Michael E. O’Hanlon, a military analyst and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “The issue will be, do we reduce in the second half of the year by 1,000, 5,000 or 20,000?”  (photo: Getty)

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