Reuters North American News Service
Dec 20, 2008 11:25 EST
KABUL, Dec 20 (Reuters) - The United States is looking to send 20,000 to 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan by the beginning of next summer, the chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff said on Saturday.
Washington is already sending some 3,000 extra troops in January and another 2,800 by spring, but officials have previously said the number would be made up to 20,000 in the next 12 to 18 months, once approved by the U.S. administration.
“Some 20 to 30,000 is the window of overall increase from where we are right now. I don’t have an exact number,” Admiral Mike Mullen told reporters.
“We’ve agreed on the requirement and so it’s really clear to me we’re going to fill that requirement so it’s not a matter of if, but when,” he said. “We’re looking to get them here in the spring, but certainly by the beginning of summer at the latest.”
U.S. Army General David McKiernan has asked for the extra troops to halt a growing Taliban insurgency particularly in the east and south of Afghanistan.
President-elect Barack Obama has pledged a renewed focus on Afghanistan, where U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban government in late 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
The United States now has some 31,000 troops in Afghanistan, some of them operating independently and some operating as part of a 51,000-strong NATO-led security assistance force. (Editing by Ralph Boulton)