Most US troops will be sent to Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan

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Kabul, Dec.3 (ANI): Of the 30,000 additional American troops to be deployed in Afghanistan in the summer of 2010, most will be sent to the southern part of that country, as it is perceived to be the stronghold of the Taliban, an American military official said here.

The New York Times quotes the official as saying further that the deployment would be in an area including Helmand and Kandahar provinces, seen as the financial and spiritual base of the Taliban.

Two combat brigades, one from the Marines and one from the Army, will go to the south, while another Army brigade will be sent to eastern Afghanistan, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Army combat brigades usually comprise about 5,000 soldiers.

The flow of forces will begin "in earnest" next month, the official said, and a majority of troops will be deployed by next summer.

In Helmand, the new Marine brigade will nearly double the Marines' 10,000-strong force. When these troops are combined with British forces, Helmand may end up with well over 20,000 troops, as many as were typically deployed in Baghdad. Helmand covers a far larger territory than Baghdad but has about one-fourth of the population.

The boost will give the Marines the troops they believe they need to attack Taliban sanctuaries that safeguard drug runners, bomb makers and fighters in Helmand, the official said.

Speaking to reporters at his headquarters in Kabul on Wednesday, the American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, said the new American deployment, along with expected NATO reinforcements, was "sufficient."

"I think that we're going to have exactly what we need to move forward," said the general, who had earlier sought a fourth brigade.

Excluding support units, about one-quarter of the new forces will serve as trainers for Afghan forces. The rest will be traditional combat units teamed with Afghan security forces.

The three new brigades will join the equivalent of what are now roughly five United States combat manoeuvre brigades and two training brigades, and bring the total number of American troops in Afghanistan to almost 100,000.

The biggest troop increase will be in Helmand, where Marines and British troops are battling insurgents skilled at using fertilizer and diesel fuel to manufacture bombs that tear apart armoured vehicles. Almost one of three NATO and American fatalities this year was in Helmand. (ANI)

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