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U.S. and NATO Troop Deployments in Afghanistan: Facts, Successes and Failures

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Interest in American troop deployment is heavily focused on Iraq. But deployments in Afghanistan have been experiencing a "surge," too.

Two major foreign military contingents have been overseeing security and reconstruction in Afghanistan since the downfall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in fall 2001: The American-led Operation Enduring Freedom, and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. Combined troop strength in 2007 was about 50,000, with American troops forming the largest contingents in both operations.

Operation Enduring Freedom conducts counterterror and counterinsurgency operations. The International Security and Assistance Force, initially limited to Kabul, the Afghan capital, expanded its mission in October 2003 to cover all of Afghanistan. The expansion was approved by United Nations Security Council resolution 1510.

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In February 2006, U.S. troops in Afghanistan totaled 20,297. By March 2007, troops increased to 24,845 and deployment tours for 3,200 troops were extended by four months. About 8,000 to 10,000 U.S. troops are assigned to Operation Iraqi Freedom (the Department of Defense doesn’t specify deployment strengths), and are under American command. The rest are assigned to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Total ISAF troop strength as of July 2007 was 41,000, with 37 nations contributing troops. Contingents were led by the United States (14,750), the United Kingdom (6,500), Germany (3,000), Canada and Italy (2,500 each), the Netherlands (1,300), Turkey (1,200) and Poland (1,075). Contingents for all other contributing nations are below 1,000 troops, and some—Austria, Ireland, Iceland, Switzerland—are below 10. The 41,000 troop total for the ISAF includes approximately 6,450 so-called national contingent commands, or supporting troops that may not be in Afghanistan.

Among American troops, 21,581 are active military personnel, most of whom are from the Army. About 3,200 troops are from National Guard unites and the Reserves. As of early September 2007, 440 U.S. troops and 246 coalition troops have been killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom, for a total of 686. Other than the United States, the United Kingdom (78) and Canada (70) have suffered the heaviest casualties. Among American troops, 1,472 have been wounded since 2001.

The Afghan army in 2007 numbered 32,000 troops, the Afghan national police at 61,000.

Background

In a February 2007 speech, President Bush projected increases in the Afghan army’s strength to 70,000 by the end of 2008, and police ranks to 82,000. But it’s doubtful the expectations are realistic, leading to conflicting reports about troop strengths in 2008 and beyond. Bush wants NATO troops increased. NATO member nations such as Canada, Britain, Germany and the Netherlands, however, face intense pressure at home to draw down their commitments in Afghanistan, primarily due to the mission’s overall lack of success.

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