Pentagon eyes sending hundreds of troops to Afghanistan

AP | WASHINGTON – Top Pentagon leaders are expected to recommend soon that Defense Secretary Robert Gates order hundreds of additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan over the next month or so, according to a senior military official.

The units are likely small and could include engineers, ordnance disposal troops and other support forces for fighting needs and training of Afghan forces. Officials have not ruled out a larger, brigade-sized unit before the end of the year that could be shifted to Afghanistan from a planned deployment to Iraq or moved from some other location.

U.S. commanders in Afghanistan have been asking for three combat brigades, or roughly 10,000 more troops, to help quash rising violence there.

The senior official, who requested anonymity because the proposals are not public, said the recommendations have not yet been approved by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or delivered to Gates. The Joint Chiefs and military commanders are reviewing a number of options.

Yesterday, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said any sizable increase in troop levels in Afghanistan may not come until the new administration. Any decision to shift large units into Afghanistan after they’ve been preparing to go to Iraq would take additional training and time, Morrell said. “You can’t snap your fingers and make this happen,” he said.

He added later the Pentagon is not kicking any future decisions to the next White House. Rather, he said, decisions made now may require months to execute.