A team of advisers and an infantry battalion from the 10th Mountain Division will deploy to southern Afghanistan in the coming weeks as part of an effort to bolster the fight there.
The battalion’s deployment is part of the regular rotation of forces, said Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, a U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, in a statement. Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, of Fort Drum, New York, will replace another infantry battalion that’s completing its tour.
What’s new is the addition of military advisers to help with the train-and-advise mission there.
“The battalion will bring a small number of trainers to assist with the efforts to re-man, re-equip, and re-train the 215th Corps, but its primary mission will remain force protection,” Shoffner said. “This is not a new force protection mission, but an enhancement of the existing force protection mission to increase the capacity of our current train, advise and assist efforts.”
The Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps is based in Helmand, a poppy-rich province that was once home to about 30,000 coalition troops and major operations run by U.S. Marines, according to the Associated Press. Nearly all U.S. troops there withdrew by the end of 2014, and in recent months pitched battles have been fought there, some of which involved U.S. special operations troops working alongside Afghan commandos, according to AP.
The Taliban has seized territory in several parts of Helmand province, and was recently said to be close to recapturing Sangin, a strategically important district that the Afghan military and Taliban have been fighting over for months, the AP reported.
The overall security situation in Afghanistan remains tenuous, with several significant events since the end of the American combat mission there. In October, Taliban insurgents stormed the northern provincial capital of Kunduz and were pushed out only after fierce fighting, according to USA Today. During that battle, an inadvertent attack by a U.S. warplane on a hospital killed 42 civilians.
In December, six American airmen were killed by a suicide bomber near Bagram Airfield. In the south, Taliban insurgents continue to batter Afghan troops. On Jan. 5, U.S. special operations troops who were advising their Afghan counterparts were caught in an hours-long battle. Sgt. 1st Class Matthew McClintock, a Green Beret, was killed, and two other Americans were wounded.
The Army first announced the upcoming deployment of 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry in January. About 500 soldiers are expected to deploy this winter.