By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
Aug. 5, 2008 - The Defense Department has extended by one month the deployments of about 1,250 Marines working as trainers to Afghan security forces, a U.S. Marine Corps official said today. The extension will keep the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment in Afghanistan through late November, according to an Associated Press report that was confirmed by a Marine official.
Ongoing discussions in the Pentagon center on providing additional troops to Afghanistan, where commanders have expressed a desire for three more brigade combat teams, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said today.
"We are working to provide them with the additional forces they would like. There is a concerted effort by this building to figure out what more can be done. And as the secretary said, he would like it done sooner rather than later," Morrell said, referring to public comments by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.
Morrell declined to comment as to whether brigades slated to deploy to Iraq would deploy instead to Afghanistan, noting that Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, is in the process of a post-surge assessment of troop levels. Petraeus is slated to take over U.S. Central Command after the assessment.
"At some point soon, he's going to make a recommendation to the secretary and to the president on the possibility of further troop drawdowns," Morrell said of Petraeus' expected progress report to Gates and Bush, both of whom have made commitments to provide additional resources to Afghanistan in 2009. But, Morrell said, movement of more forces to Afghanistan is not necessarily tied to further troop withdrawals in Iraq.
"I know much has been made of sort of the correlation between forces coming down in Iraq and going up in Afghanistan," he said. "And while that certainly would seem to be the most natural transaction to take place, the truth is we're [nearly] 2.5 million strong around the world. We have the means to draw forces elsewhere, whether it be through reserves or [National] Guard or drawing down from other places around the world where we have commitments."
Morrell said the distribution of military forces is based on the needs of U.S. commanders across the globe and on risks the United States is willing to assume.
"We have first commitments across the globe and threats and contingencies we need to be situated for beyond just the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said.