WASHINGTON — The Obama administration plans to send roughly 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan by next summer, accelerating its plan to have 34,000 additional troops there by the end of next year, a senior military official told McClatchy Tuesday.
Pentagon officials believe the White House wants to accelerate the troop deployment so that an assessment of progress can be made by next summer, when the administration believes the United States must demonstrate to Afghans some progress to retain their support.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates first said in May that the U.S. military must show progress in the next 12 to 18 months or Afghan support for the U.S. effort there could dissipate, and officials have said the administration still believes that timeline is valid, even as it spent much of that period delibrating its new strategy in Afghanistan. The original timetable would not have seen U.s. troops fully deployed until next fall.
A Marine brigade based at Camp Lejeune, N.C. will arrive early next year, and three Army brigades will go to Afghanistan by next June, the official said.
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President Barack Obama will announce his new Afghanistan strategy tonight at 8 p.m. from the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Gen. David Petraeus, the head of the U.S. Central Command, will attend.
The president is expected to announce not only more troops but also tougher demands on Afghan President Hamid Karzai to root out the rampant corruption plaguing his government.
With the additional troops, the United States will have nearly 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. In addition, there are 42,000 NATO troops, and the administration is asking its allies to send more. The forces are tackling a resurgent Taliban that's taking over large swathes of the country. Indeed, violence against Afghans and coalition forces are at their highest levels of this eight-year war.