The US military will deploy up to 9,000 Marines to Afghanistan’s Helmand province — doubling US presence there — in the days after President Barack Obama’s war strategy announcement this week, the Washington Post said Saturday.
Citing senior US officials, the daily said the extra Marines won’t move to the restive southern province until after Obama’s address to the nation Tuesday from the prestigious West Point military academy in New York state.
The aim is to regain a footing in the region that has been a base for a fierce Taliban insurgency in recent months.
Some 1,000 army trainers will follow the Marine’s deployment, perhaps by February next year, the Post said.
“The first troops out of the door are going to be Marines,” General James Conway, the top Marine officer, was quoted as telling soldiers in Afghanistan on Saturday.
“We’ve been leaning forward in anticipation of a decision. And we’ve got some pretty stiff fighting coming,” he said, according to the Post.
Obama has been weighing requests from his Afghan war commander, General Stanley McChrystal, to send up to 40,000 more troops to join 68,000 US troops already in Afghanistan.
Last week the president, accused of dithering on his decision, said he would make it clear “the Afghan people ultimately are going to have to provide for their own security,” and would call on allies in Europe and beyond to help.