The U.S. is sending 1,400 more Marines into Afghanistan ahead of a spring thaw, when fighting usually picks up with the Taliban, to try to cement security gains ahead of the July start of a U.S. troop withdrawal, according to a published report.
Unidentified American officials say that Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered the new deployment of more Marine combat forces in a surprise move on Wednesday. Temporarily adding front-line forces could help counter an anticipated spring offensive by Taliban militants returning from havens in neighboring Pakistan, they said.
The new troops could be on the ground as early as mid-January, deployed mostly in the south around Kandahar. Commanders are also considering more proposals to boost troop numbers even further, and if those plans are approved, the number of additional front-line troops could top 3,000, the paper said.
Officials are also looking at swapping out support units for more combat troops, to stay within the troop limits authorized by President Barack Obama when he announced a 30,000-strong surge late last year. At the time, he gave Gates leeway to send 10 percent more troops, but most of those slots have already been taken up by support units.
Read more at The Wall Street Journal.