WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Jan. 25, 2007) - Some 3,200 Soldiers of the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, will have their tour in Afghanistan extended for up to 120 additional days, Defense Department officials announced today.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates approved the extension based on the recommendations of commanders on the ground, whom Gates visited last week, said Bryan Whitman, a DoD spokesman. The extension will provide military capability for NATO to build on the success achieved in promoting stability and security in Afghanistan while denying safe haven for the Taliban, he said.
"What is certain is that Secretary Gates is very interested in ensuring that the successes that we've achieved in Afghanistan are not lost, and that commanders on the ground have sufficient forces to build upon the successes that we've achieved so far in Afghanistan," Whitman said.
Force levels in Afghanistan continue to be conditions-based, and will be determined in consultation with the Afghan government and NATO, Whitman said. The United States remains committed to leading counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan, training and equipping the Afghan national security forces, and assisting with reconstruction, according to a DoD news release announcing the extension.
The United States continues to be the largest troop contributor for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, and this request for forces by U.S. commanders was endorsed by the supreme allied commander for Europe, according to the release. Whitman stressed that the United States will continue to work with NATO to get the partner countries to fulfill the rest of their military commitment to Afghanistan, and remove restrictions from forces already deployed there.
In an Army news release, Gen. Richard Cody, Army vice chief of staff, said leaders recognize the sacrifices and contributions of the extended Soldiers and their families, and will continue to support them. The unit's home base is Fort Drum, N.Y.
"The Army is very proud of the Soldiers of the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, and will ensure that they and their families have all the support and resources they need during this challenging time," Cody said. "These Soldiers have accomplished a great deal in Afghanistan and will continue to get the mission done for our Army and this nation. They and their families are truly Army strong, and I am thankful every day for their professional and selfless commitment."
Lieutenant Gen. Karl Eikenberry, commander of Combined Forces Command Afghanistan, said Jan. 16 during Gates' visit there that NATO, U.S. and Afghan forces are preparing to counter an expected Taliban spring offensive. Speaking to reporters, Eikenberry said he expects the Taliban to launch a terror offensive in the south and east of the country, but coalition forces are ready to counter them.
"I'm very confident that, as I look at what we're doing now, although it is going to be a violent spring and we're going to have violence into the summer, I'm absolutely confident that we will be able to dominate," he said.