Needed Support Troops Would Add to Burden of Gen. McChrystal’s Request

October 13, 2009

(ChattahBox)—The Washington Post published a piece on Tuesday, examining the military’s need for the deployment of thousands of additional support personnel with each deployment of combat troops. The thousands of support troops are often not publicly added to the combat troop numbers, but nevertheless add to the burden on the military’s scarce resources divided between two wars.

The support personnel are referred to, as “enablers” and, include engineers, medical personnel, intelligence experts and military police. For each brigade of 4,000 combat troops, thousands of personnel are needed to provide support to the troops on the ground.

The 21,000 combats troops authorized by President Obama in March for deployment to Afghanistan, also required about 13,000 support troops, bringing the true total to 34,000.

The number of troop “enablers” required for Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s request for additional troops in Afghanistan would add to the already strained military forces fighting on two war fronts. The issue would raise “…practical questions about how the Army and Marine Corps would meet a request from Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan.

The ability of the military to meet McChrystal’s demand for an additional 40,000 troops for the war in Afghanistan, would depend on the mix of military personnel needed.

“The ability of the Army and Marine Corps to meet the request would depend on the type and number of troops McChrystal asked for, and when he wants them. A significant troop increase in Afghanistan early next year — similar to the 2007 increase in Iraq — would be difficult to sustain given the current size of the Army and Marine Corps and ongoing troop demands in Iraq, officials said.”

There are presently 65,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and about 124,000 in Iraq.

Additionally, the specific type of combat troops would also impact the ability of the military to adequately meet McChrystal’s request. The Army has, so far, deployed mostly light and airborne infantry to the mountainous terrain. However, in July, the Army ddeployed the first Stryker brigade to Afghanistan.

There is also the underlying issue of battle fatigue. Military officials want to avoid re-deploying troops immediately after they have already served a 15-month stint on the battlefield.

Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff, noted the importance of providing active-duty soldiers time at home, in between extended tours of duty, to prevent stress to the soldiers and their families.

“An increase in dwell time is the single most important thing we can do to relieve stress on the force,” said Gen. Chiarelli.

President Obama is currently meeting with officials from the Military and other relevant agencies to assess Gen. McChrystal’s demand for additional troops and to reevaluate the future strategy of the operation and the role of the military troops in Afghanistan.


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