The Army announced Thursday it was deploying 1,500 soldiers to Afghanistan, where attacks by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) and the Taliban have threatened the stability of the U.S.-backed government.
In a press statement, the Army's Public Affairs office said approximately 1,500 soldiers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, would be sent to Afghanistan this summer. The deployment is part of the U.S. military's ongoing Operation Freedom's Sentinel, designed to dislodge rival ultraconservative Sunni Muslim movements the Taliban and ISIS from the Central Asian nation.
The U.S. currently has 8,500 military personnel to "advise, train and assist missions, including counterterrorism and air support" for local security forces, according to the U.S. Naval Institute. The 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division will bolster the U.S.' efforts to stabilize the restive country.
"Since spearheading allied assaults in Sicily and Anzio in 1943, the Devil Brigade has accomplished its missions through disciplined initiative," said Colonel Toby Magsig, commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, in a press release. "The same endures today. The 'Devils in Baggy Pants' are well-trained, well-equipped, and ready to assist our Afghan partners as part of the Resolute Support mission."
"This is a train, advise and assist mission for the brigade," Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, public affairs officer for the 82 Airborne Division, told Newsweek. "They will be supporting local Afghan forces."
Buccino said the soldiers, who were due to head out in approximately five weeks, would largely be replacing personnel of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, which deployed around 1,400 troops to Afghanistan last year, and other units. The number of troops in Afghanistan has remained under 10,000 since a major withdrawal in recent years that concluded a major phase of the U.S.'s extended war in Afghanistan launched in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2001. The U.S. and its allies successfully ousted the Islamist government of the Taliban, an ally of Al-Qaeda, and have maintained a military presence in order to prevent a major resurgence.
Washington has since, however, diverted its attention toward defeating ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and the Taliban have made gains across the nation. The militants staged their deadliest attack since the conflict began in 2001 when Taliban fighters disguised themselves as Afghan soldiers to gain entry to a military base and launched a series of attacks Friday, killing at least 140 personnel and wounding at least 160 more.
ISIS, which has attempted to rival the Taliban's influence, also has established a presence in Afghanistan. The U.S. military targeted fighters loyal to the global jihadist group earlier this month when the Air Force dropped the largest non-nuclear weapon in its arsenal, the Massive Ordinance Air Blast (MOAB), or "mother of all bombs" on a system of caves and tunnels believed to be used by ISIS fighters operating in the restive eastern province of Nangarhar, killing 36 militants by Afghan estimates.
The U.S. military has repeatedly clashed with ISIS militants in the region, and two U.S. soldiers were killed Wednesday battling the jihadists in the Achin District of Nangarhar in an anti-ISIS operation that also wounded one other U.S. service member, according to ABC News. Days earlier, Defense Secretary James Mattis visited Afghanistan Monday to offer strategic advice to local forces.
"We are under no illusions about the challenges associated with this mission," Mattis said, according to CNN, adding that "2017 is going to be another tough year for the valiant Afghan security forces and the international troops who have stood and who will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Afghanistan against terrorism."
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