Wednesday, August 19, 2009

US commander weighs cutting desk jobs in Afghanistan

The commander of US forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, may cut the number of support staff to free up US troops for combat against Taliban insurgents, US officials said on Monday."The idea is use troops more effectively," a US defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told.Cutting back on desk jobs and other non-combat positions would mean "doing more with what you've got versus asking for more" troops, the official said.

A second official also said such a move was under review.McChrystal, who oversees American and NATO troops in Afghanistan, is weighing the step as he carries out an assessment of the war effort amid widespread speculation he is preparing to request more US troops.Cutting the number of support staff could mean McChrystal would make a more modest appeal for additional forces.

The White House remains reluctant to approve a major injection of troops as it faces growing anxiety over the course of the war among Democrats in Congress. About 62,000 US forces are deployed in Afghanistan and the number is due to reach 68,000 by the end of the year. President Barack Obama already has sent 21,000 additional troops as the NATO-led force works to turn the tide against a violent insurgency.

Several Washington-based analysts who recently advised McChrystal on war strategy have publicly urged a major increase in combat troops.But Defense Secretary Robert Gates has expressed caution, saying too large of an international presence risked alienating Afghans and that the US military's resources were constrained by its commitment in Iraq.About 131,000 troops are stationed in Iraq with the Obama administration planning a gradual drawdown of forces.

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