U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has approved the deployment of a combat brigade of 2,800 troops to Afghanistan as part of a build-up of forces to counter the growing insurgency, according to U.S. military officials.
The brigade, equipped with attack and transport helicopters, is set to be stationed in Afghanistan in the next spring.
The chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, announced on December 20 that the overall troop increase in Afghanistan will be 20,000-30,000 more forces by the beginning of next summer.
U.S. Army General David McKiernan, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, had requested additional troops to fight the increasing violence waged by Taliban militants in Afghanistan’s volatile eastern and southern provinces.
During his trip to Afghanistan earlier this month, Gates promised more troops and resources to the country. "Beyond January, we are hopeful that we will be able to send an additional two brigade combat teams by late spring. I think an important element of General [David] McKiernan's request is the enablers, particularly combat aviation, to be helpful. And so, we'll be working all those requirements in Washington, as well," Gates said.
There are over 30,000 U.S. soldiers deployed in Afghanistan. Some of the troops operate as a part of the NATO-led security assistance force.
Czechs' Mandate Ends
As the U.S. boosts its presence in Afghanistan, some NATO members’ commitments there are waning.
On December 19, the Czech parliament rejected a plan to extend and expand the country’s military presence in Afghanistan.
Prague will now have to withdraw its 500 troops under U.S. and NATO commands in Afghanistan within 60 days of the start of the year, unless another decision is taken to extend their mandate.
The failed Czech proposal to send an additional 200 troops to Afghanistan was a response to U.S. and NATO requests to do more in the fight against the Taliban insurgents, who have stepped up attacks on international troops this year.
Four NATO soldiers were killed in separate incidents in Afghanistan on December 19.
Three Danish soldiers were killed when their armored vehicle drove over an explosive device in southern Helmand Province. A Dutch soldier was killed and another wounded by a roadside bomb in neighboring Oruzgan.
More than 280 international soldiers, mostly U.S. troops, have been killed so far this year in Afghanistan.