News / Asia

NATO Restructures Forces in Southern Afghanistan

As NATO and Afghan troops prepare for a summer offensive in southern Afghanistan, NATO is restructuring its forces there. The security alliance has created a second command in the south, as thousands of American and Afghan troops arrive in the region.

Thousands of U.S. and Afghan troops are pouring into southern Afghanistan. Their goal is to erode Taliban influence here and bring security to the region so the government can establish a rule of law.

American Lieutenant General William Caldwell is in charge of training Afghan police and army forces who are arriving. He says all is not ready, but they are moving in the right direction.

"It's a rising tide. We have what's necessary at this moment, but there's going to need to be more," he said. "And they're not here yet, so there will be a need for some additional national police, some additional army forces, we are still training additional Afghan infantry battalions. So more forces still need to come down to really do the full implementation of what they want to occur."

The new strategy in the south is in its first stages says British Major General Nick Carter, who commands all the forces in southern Afghanistan.

"We will have around 60,000 NATO troops deployed in southern Afghanistan once this second uplift has been completed," said Carter. "We'll have probably between 30 and 40,000 Afghan troops deployed throughout the south as well Afghan security forces."

NATO has decided to split the south into two regional commands. Carter will control Kandahar province, and next month an American major general will take over neighboring Helmand province. Carter welcomes the move.

"Commanding nearly 100,000 people, bigger than the British army, is probably too challenging for one man, so I think splitting it will make sense," added Carter.

Kandahar and Helmand are considered the two most violent and therefore militarily demanding areas of Afghanistan right now. Carter says although he will not be commanding Helmand, he will be watching the new regional command area, or RC, closely.

"The relationship between the two RCs will be probably closer than with any other RCs because of the political crossover and the insurgent crossover between the two commands," he said.

Carter says it will take three or four months too see whether the new strategy is working.

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