By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Jan. 15, 2008 - About 3,200 U.S. Marines will be sent to Afghanistan this spring on a one-time deployment to help NATO forces there expand on successes gained against the Taliban over the past year, according to a Defense Department news release issued today.
President Bush has approved the deployment of Marines that was recommended by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, the release said.
"This extraordinary, one-time deployment involves approximately 3,200 personnel and will enable commanders in Afghanistan to enhance the training of increasingly-capable Afghan National Security Forces to build on the military successes of 2007 and to expand the gains of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force mission," the release stated.
About 2,200 Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., will deploy to assist ISAF troops in the performance of anti-insurgent operations in southern Afghanistan, the release said.
That deployment is slated to last seven months and "will temporarily fill a standing ISAF request for a maneuver force in southern Afghanistan," the release stated.
Another contingent of about 1,000 Marines from 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment based at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, Calif., also will deploy to Afghanistan, said Marine Capt. Amy Malugani, a spokeswoman with U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters here. These 1,000 Marines will assist in the training and development of Afghan security forces as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"These additional forces will enable the acceleration and strengthening of Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police capabilities. Afghan forces continue to develop capability and increasingly assume the lead in security operations," the Defense Department release stated.
The temporary deployment of U.S. Marines to Afghanistan "reflects the continued U.S. commitment to Afghanistan security and development of the Afghan National Security Forces," the release said.
As a member of NATO, the United States "is doing its part to ensure ISAF has the forces necessary to ensure the hard-fought gains accumulated during the past six years by the Afghans and NATO are made irreversible," the release said.
As the April 2-4 NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, nears, the Defense Department "will work intensively with allies and partners to ensure all outstanding ISAF requirements are filled and the need for future extraordinary deployments by the U.S. or any ally and partner is minimized," the release stated.