WASHINGTON, Jan 16 (Reuters) – About 500 Navy construction engineers will go to Afghanistan next month to build facilities for thousands of extra U.S. troops expected to deploy there in coming months, the Pentagon said on Friday.
The 25th Naval Construction Regiment, based in Gulfport, Mississippi, will arrive in Afghanistan late in February for a deployment of up to 12 months, officials said.
The sailors were initially due to deploy to Kuwait, which the U.S. military uses as a support base for operations in Iraq. But their assignment was switched as part of a shift in military strategy as the United States begins to focus more on Afghanistan.
They are scheduled to be tasked with constructing bases and facilities for a significantly larger US presence. At the same time orders for the parts for more laser guided bombs have been stepped up, indicating that there is a planned air phase as part of the insertion, and a greater role for US fighter/attack planes in targeting what the Army is currently referring to as "anti-Afghan" elements, but which are, in fact, indigenous groups in Afghanistan that do not recognize the current government.
However, even the NATO Secretary General recognizes that "Afghanistan is organically linked to Pakistan," and there must be a comprehensive approach. Next door in Pakistan, this is seen as a prelude to invasion by ISI supporters and ultra-nationalists. Everyone wants to get Afghanistan right, but the consensus inside the beltway is for escalation in Afghanistan, and then to spring board to Iran, not Pakistan.
Afghanistan has become, again, a legal black hole, exporting opiates. Even the Taliban have capitulated to the economic reality, and allowed cultivation, in their areas, something they prohibited when first in power. Stories such as acid attacks of school girls, falling life expectancy, revenge killings and political assassination have motivated many to want to attack without relent until the problem is "solved." Moral among US troops in Afghanistan is higher, even as they say good bye to the pieces of their civilian life in what is the hardest of hardship tours.
Islamic opinion is divided. Bush is recognized as a disaster. Obama evokes a startling range of reactions, from those that compare him to Hitler and chant for his death, to those who believe that he will usher in a completely new era in global relations. As with Americans, people over seas stamp the coming era with their own hopes. However, the first step is already decided: America is going to construct bases, and accelerate the air war in Afghanistan, and hold consultations inside of NATO as to what kind of political outcome to have.
Ambassador Gallucci is well known for saying that we can approach any international problem with three options: talk, wait, bomb. The option now in Afghanistan is "bomb," because there are no formal channels to negotiate with the warring parties in Afghanistan, and the slide in conditions since 2007 has left no one in the mood to wait. In the last decade America shifted to a 1 1/2 half war "fight win fight" strategy, which was immediately dubbed "fight/lose/fight." The accuracy of that acid observation is about to be tested.