Decision to delay U.S. troop withdrawal means Fort Drum soldiers won't come home early
President Barack Obama announced his decision Thursday to delay the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. This is a big departure from Obama’s original plan to remove almost all troops by the end of his presidency. But, Fort Drum's commanding general says he isn’t surprised by the news.
Gen. Jeffrey Bannister said Thursday that the 10th Mountain Division has most likely deployed more times to Afghanistan than other units in the Army. Twenty-eight hundred Fort Drum soldiers are there now. Bannister said he knows firsthand that military leaders have been constantly assessing troop levels in Afghanistan since missions began.
“The immediate impacts to Drum, our two brigades that are there, under the original plan, we would have sent some of them home early. I think with this new plan they will stay through the duration of their deployments, nine months,” Bannister said.
Right now, around 9,800 U.S. forces are both training Afghan security forces and engaging in counter-terrorism operations against Al-Qaeda. Fort Drum soldiers are on bases in the country, training forces in Kandahar and near the Pakistani border. Bannister said keeping troops in Afghanistan will help Afghani forces stay on their feet.
“Their counter-terrorism forces are really picking up quite a bit but they need more touch. That gives time for them to get their own enablers under them and not rely on us so much.”
Bannister declined to say how many Fort Drum soldiers will make up the 5,500 U.S. troops slated to stay in the country until 2017. He said he’ll wait to hear from the Pentagon on that. Bannister and 200 more Fort Drum troops will head to Afghanistan this month.