US to deploy 20,000 Marines to Afghanistan: Commander

January 24th, 2009 - 7:54 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 24 (Xinhua) The US military is to deploy about 20,000 Marines to Afghanistan in six to eight months, a senior military officer has said. “The time is right for Marines to leave Iraq,” Marine Commandant James Conway told reporters here, adding that the deployment is a result of troop withdrawal from Iraq.

The Pentagon had earlier said that it was planning to send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, where Taliban and other extremist militants revived and obtained strenght in the past 18 months.

Currently, there are approximately 33,000 US troops, including 2,200 Marines. A total of 142,000 US troops are stationed in Iraq, including more than 20,000 Marines.

According to Conway, Marines “have been steadily removing equipment from theater in Iraq” and will get the rest of equipment out of Iraq in next six to eight months.

However, he cautioned that deployment of too many Marines to Afghanistan could jeopardize Marines’ ability to resume training in vital areas, and he hoped that the number would be “20,000 or less”.

President Barack Obama has asked the Pentagon to draw options to end the Iraq war, including a plan to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq in the first 16 months of his presidency, and shift resources to Afghanistan.

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