12,000 U.S. Troops in Afghanistan to Serve Under NATO
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 4, 2006 – More than half of the U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan will become part of the NATO International Security Assistance Force during a transfer-of-authority ceremony tomorrow morning in the Afghan capital of Kabul.
Army Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, commander of Combined Forces Command Afghanistan, will transfer command of Regional Command East to NATO. During that transfer, about 12,000 U.S. troops currently assigned to CFCA will join 20,000 NATO troops assigned to the ISAF mission.
However, the affected troops will remain under U.S. control, Bryan Whitman, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, told Pentagon reporters today. Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 76, will serve as the U.S. operational commander and ISAF deputy commander for security.
The other 8,000 U.S. servicemembers in Afghanistan will remain under CFCA to conduct a variety of other missions, from conducting counterterrorism efforts to training Afghan security forces to providing combat service support, Whitman explained.
The North Atlantic Council approved expansion of the NATO-led ISAF to include 14 additional provinces in eastern Afghanistan Sept. 28. NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer called that decision another example of the progress the alliance is making “to help Afghanistan build a better future.”
This so-called “Stage 4” expansion -- the fourth expansion since ISAF began its security mission in Afghanistan in December 2001 -- will make NATO responsible for providing international military security support throughout Afghanistan. This “will allow for a better coordinated presence” there, Whitman said.
NATO also will take command of 10 additional provincial reconstruction teams, bringing the total number of NATO-led PRTs to 23. Whitman called these PRTs “the catalyst for improved development and reconstruction of the country.”
The alliance has made significant progress in Afghanistan, “and the transition to NATO ISAF Stage 4 will build on that progress,” he said.
Whitman cited continued progress in Afghanistan’s security forces as one example of developments taking place. The Afghan National Army, which now numbers about 30,000, “is a well-respected force, both by the Afghan people as well as the coalition forces who have been operating with them,” he said.
The United States was to have spent about $3.5 billion as of Sept. 30 to train and equip the Afghan army, but exact year-end figures are not yet available, Whitman said.
In addition, about 46,000 Afghan police have been trained and equipped, but continued reforms within the force are still needed, Whitman said.
As this progress takes place, international cooperation in Afghanistan remains strong and is critical to it’s the country’s long-term success, he said. “The international commitment will remain strong,” he said.
Whitman reiterated the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan, as well. “The United States continues to have an enduring commitment to building the Afghan national security forces while assisting in the reconstruction of the country,” he said, “and we are committed to staying as long as necessary with the forces necessary to ensure a stable and security Afghanistan.”
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