WASHINGTON — There are now approximately 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, according to Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the Joint Staff Director.
The new estimate of U.S. forces in Afghanistan is about 3,000 higher than the 11,000 previously reported by the Pentagon earlier this year.
The number reflects the arrival of several thousand more troops as part of the Trump administration’s new South Asia strategy which is expected to raise U.S. troop levels in the region by just over 3,500 troops.
“As you know, we just completed a force flow into Afghanistan, so the new number for Afghanistan is approximately 14,000,” McKenzie told reporters at a televised briefing at the Pentagon. It “might be a little above that, might be a little below that, as we flex according to the mission.”
The new force level represent the majority of the troop increase expected by the new Afghanistan strategy.
There were worries that the devastating destruction caused by this year’s hurricane season in the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico would delay U.S. troop deployments to the region into next year. Troop transport aircraft to include C-17s and C-5s needed to deploy U.S. forces around the globe were tied up assisting humanitarian relief in the Caribbean.
However, those fears have been put to rest as several thousand additional forces have just moved into the region.
“Goes to show you the robustness of the force and the ability to flex,” McKenzie told reporters. “It is a tremendous story about the global reach of the United States.”
But, U.S. commanders need approximately 16,000 troops in the region to undertake Army Gen. John Nicholson’s new strategy in the war-torn region, which calls for putting U.S. advisers closer to the front lines with Afghan forces as they battle a resurgent Taliban threat.
Those additional numbers are expected to come from other NATO countries. However, the troop-contributing nations in the alliance have yet to make commitments and the alliance so far has come up short, only meeting 90 percent of military requirements for the new strategy, according to AP.
“I’m absolutely confident that we will have sufficient forces when we move into 2018,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told AP in an interview. “We are still receiving pledges and announcements about more troop contributions from allies.”
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.