By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
.Aug. 8, 2008 - The government of Afghanistan has proposed to nearly double the size of its army over the next five years, senior Pentagon officials said here today. If the Afghan proposal is realized, the Afghan National Army would increase its ranks from about 65,000 soldiers presently to about 120,000 troops over the next five years, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters.
"This new Afghan plan, we think, has merit," Whitman said. "But, it also will have some costs associated with it, too."
The Afghan army is slated to grow to about 80,000 soldiers sometime next year, Whitman said. A final decision on the new Afghan army expansion proposal, he said, has not been made.
Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters the cost of the proposed Afghan National Army expansion is estimated to be about $17 billion.
Besides funding the proposed expansion of the Afghan National Army, the $17 billion also would be used to finance Afghan army operations over the five-year period and furnish money for investment in the Afghan Air Corps, Morrell said.
U.S. Central Command planners are crunching the numbers to determine how many additional trainers would be required to expand the Afghan National Army to 120,000 soldiers over five years, Morrell said.
The Pentagon plans to consult its military partners in Afghanistan to explore ways to help spread the costs of the proposed ANA expansion, Whitman said.
Afghanistan's proposal to increase the size of its army makes sense, Whitman said. "Quite frankly, for that country and for the conditions that exist there, more Afghan forces are needed to be able to defeat the terrorists and to defend the Afghan people," Whitman said.
Senior U.S. officials also are looking at ways to boost U.S. and partner-nation forces in Afghanistan.