U.S. may send 9,000 Marines to fight Taliban in Afghanistan

The United States may send as many as 9,000 Marines to southern Afghanistan to fight Taliban militants just days after President Obama outlines his new war strategy, The Washington Post reported on Sunday.

US soldiers hunt Taliban in a mountainous region in Southern Afghanistan

The extra Marines will be the first to move into Afghanistan as part of Obama's escalation of the eight-year-old war. They will double the size of the U.S. force in the southern Helmand province and will provide a critical test for Afghan President Hamid Karzai's struggling government, the paper said.

"The first troops out of the door are going to be Marines. We've been leaning forward in anticipation of a decision. And we've got some pretty stiff fighting coming," the paper quoted Gen. James T. Conway, the Corps' top officer, as saying.

The Marines are expected to be followed by about 1,000 U.S. Army trainers. They will be deployed as early as February to speed the growth of the Afghan army and police force, military officials told the paper.

The new forces, however, will not start moving until Obama outlines his new strategy in a speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., on Tuesday, the paper said.

"The revised plan, which faces a war-weary and increasingly skeptical American public, is expected to call for 30,000 to 35,000 new troops in a phased deployment over the next 12 to 18 months," the paper said.

The U.S. so far has 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, while other 45,000 are from other NATO member states.

Violence has surged in Afghanistan, with the radical Islamic Taliban group, toppled in the 2001 U.S.-led campaign, staging regular attacks on provincial government officials, police and troops.

Source: AFP

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