U.S.: 15,000 troops is goal in Afghanistan

Of­fi­cials say about 11,000 are cur­rently de­ployed in coun­try.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY'S TOP NEWS - By Lolita C. Bal­dor

The Pen­tagon is poised to have roughly 15,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan in the com­ing months, as de­fense of­fi­cials Wed­nes­day fi­nally ac­knowl­edged the ac­tual num­ber of Amer­i­can forces in the coun­try after long cam­ou­flag­ing the to­tal.

Se­nior De­fense of­fi­cials for the first time said there are about 11,000 U.S. forces cur­rently de­ployed to Afghanistan — thou­sands more than the 8,400 that were al­lowed un­der the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion’s troop cap.

Mil­i­tary of­fi­cials have long qui­etly ac­knowl­edged there were far more forces in the coun­try than the cap al­lowed, but com­man­ders shuf­fled troops in and out of the coun­try, la­beled many “tem­po­rary” and used other per­son­nel ac­count­ing tac­tics to ar­ti­fi­cially keep the count low.

The of­fi­cials, how­ever, re­fused Wed­nes­day to pro­vide sim­i­lar de­tails for Iraq and Syria, where there also are thou­sands more than the Pen­tagon pub­licly ad­mits.

There have long been po­lit­i­cal sen­si­tiv­i­ties within the Iraq gov­ern­ment about the num­ber of Amer­i­can troops on the ground, and those con­cerns raise ques­tions about whether the Pen­tagon will be less can­did about force num­bers there to avoid con­flicts.

Based on troop caps in­sti­tuted by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, the num­ber of U.S. forces in Iraq has con­sis­tently been re­ported as 5,262, but of­fi­cials say there are ac­tu­ally more than 7,000.

And there are at least 1,500 U.S. troops in Syria — al­most three times the 503 that the Pen­tagon will ac­knowl­edge.

The troop num­bers an­nounce­ment comes as the Pen­tagon is pre­par­ing to de­ploy sev­eral thou­sand more Amer­i­cans to Afghanistan in or­der to ex­pand the train­ing and ad­vis­ing of Afghan forces and beef up coun­tert­er­ror op­er­a­tions against the Tal­iban and al-Qaida-linked groups in the coun­try.

Of­fi­cials have said the U.S. will send as many as 3,900 more troops to the war — which would bring the num­ber of pub­licly ac­knowl­edged troops there to about 15,000.

Lt. Gen. Frank McKen­zie, di­rec­tor of the Joint Staff, said pro­vid­ing more truth­ful num­bers “is an at­tempt to ac­tu­ally clar­ify a very con­fus­ing set of re­port­ing rules that has the un­in­tended con­se­quence of forc­ing com­man­ders to make readi­ness trade­offs as they de­ploy their forces.”

AP 2009

U.S. sol­diers stand guard in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2009. U.S. of­fi­cials say there are about 11,000 U.S. forces now de­ployed to Afghanistan — thou­sands more than the 8,400 al­lowed un­der the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion’s troop cap.

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