January’s US troop deployments in Afghanistan will focus on areas near Kabul, reflecting rising security concerns about the capital, the New York Times reports. The move marks the first time large numbers of troops will be deployed to regions south of the city. The 3,500 to 4,000 US soldiers in the new brigade are part of 20,000 set to head to Afghanistan over the next 12 to 18 months, largely transferring from Iraq.
The Kabul-area deployments mean few, if any, new troops in insurgency strongholds, and defending the borders from an influx of militants, despite the wishes of US commanders and Afghanistan’s president. In recent months, Hamid Karzai has urged the US to take the battle to the borderlands, rather than fighting in villages where civilian casualties are high. Some 62,000 foreign troops are currently “spread thinly” across the country, the Times notes, and commanders say more are urgently needed.