Washington will send an additional 13,000 US troops to Afghanistan in addition to the 21,000 President Barack Obama announced publicly in March, a report says.
The Washington Post reported on Monday the extra troops are primarily support forces, such as engineers, medical personnel, intelligence experts and military police, bringing the total buildup the president has approved to 34,000.
“Obama authorized the whole thing. The only thing you saw announced in a press release was the 21,000,” a defense official, familiar with the process, told the paper.
This is while Obama is mulling a request from the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, for more combat, training and support troops, with several options including one for 40,000 more soldiers.
However, the report noted that the maximum number of US service members expected in Afghanistan by the year’s end – 68,000 – would remain the same.
Major deployments of “support troops” have not been publicized by the Pentagon and the White House in the past. When ex-president George W. Bush announced a surge in Iraq, he only mentioned 20,000 combat troops and not the accompanying 8,000 support forces.
The troop increase approved by Obama will bring the number of US ‘boots on the ground’ in both Iraq and Afghanistan to a greater total than could be found during the peak of the late 2007-thru-early-2008 Iraq surge.
In fact, some 65,000 US forces are currently in Afghanistan and about 124,000 in Iraq, compared to around 26,000 in Afghanistan and 160,000 in Iraq at the height of the Iraq surge, according to a troop count conducted at the start of the current month.
Less than a year into Nobel peace prize winner Obama’s tenure, there are 189,000 US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan compared to the Bush Administration’s peak of 186,000 in both theaters of war.