US May Double Forces in Afghanistan to 60K

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 20, 2008 3:27 PM CST
US helicopters in Badghis province, Afghanistan.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – The US could double the number of its troops in Afghanistan to about 60,000 by next summer, the highest such estimate to date, Reuters reports. American troops currently number 31,000, but joint chiefs chairman Mike Mullen said today that an additional 20,000 to 30,000 will be needed by the spring or early summer. “We're going to fill that requirement so it's not a matter of if, but when," he said.

The majority will be deployed to the fragile south of the country, and Mullen was candid about the dangers. “When we get additional troops here, I think the violence level is going to go up,” he said. “The fight will be tougher.” Mullen also stressed that normalizing relations between Pakistan and India would ease violence in Afghanistan, and that any military progress must go hand in hand with economic development.