Gates Plans to Double Size of Afghan Army

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 8, 2008 7:25 AM CDT
Reinforcement Afghan soldiers wait at Kabul airport to be transferred to Arghandab district, which is partly controlled by the Taliban militants, on June 17, 2008.    (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq)
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(Newser) – Robert Gates is backing a plan to pump $20 billion into Afghanistan’s army and restructure the command of NATO and US forces, in an effort to revamp the struggling war effort there. With American troops tied up in Iraq, Gates intends to almost double the size of the Afghan army over 5 years, the New York Times reports, while at the same time putting almost all US troops under NATO command.

Until now, 19,000 American troops have acted independently, a system deemed increasingly unwieldy as the Taliban insurgency has mounted. US Gen. David McKiernan, who leads the NATO forces, would have overall command of US troops, though they will continue to carry out slightly different missions, aimed at rooting out terrorists rather than stabilizing the country. Gates will ask allies to contribute to the $20 billion it will take to train, equip, feed and house the expanded Afghan army.