Continued U.S. military presence in southern Afghanistan
In the first official sign that the Pentagon plans to keep a U.S. military presence in southern Afghanistan after this year, the Army is sending the 7th Infantry Division headquarters from Joint Base Lewis-McChord on a year-long deployment to Kandahar Province this spring.

The deployment follows Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s weekend visit to Kandahar, where he acknowledged in a meeting with soldiers that the Obama administration was reconsidering the pace of its planned withdrawal of the 10,000 U.S. troops who remain in Afghanistan.

The deployment is small, fewer than 100 soldiers. But it’s significant because it shows that the U.S. military wants to maintain a presence in Afghanistan’s Pashtun heartland while continuing to reduce its footprint in the 14-year-old war.

The division’s deployment has been an open secret at the base for months. The Pentagon in December announced that it was adding staff to the headquarters to help it reach a deployable strength.

This month, the Army sent the division command team to the Joint Readiness Training Center in Louisiana, where it is carrying out an exercise to prepare for the mission. The Army has published photos from the exercise to its own social media accounts.

And, this week, the Army set up an interview with McClatchy’s News-Tribune newspaper to discuss the deployment. Late Tuesday, just before the interview, however, the Army canceled after officials in Washington, D.C. determined they had not given proper notification about the mission to Congress. The deployment is still going forward, officials said.
Read more...