Pentagon Downplays 13K Surge in Afghan Support Troops

Extra thousands swell US numbers in Afghanistan
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 13, 2009 7:53 AM CDT
Sen. Patrick Leahy speaks to a large crowd of Vermont National Guard troops ahead of their deployment to Afghanistan.   (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)
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(Newser) – When does 21,000 equal 34,000? When the Pentagon is counting. The 21,000 additional troops President Obama approved for Afghanistan earlier this year have been accompanied by 13,000 extra support troops, bringing the total number in Afghanistan to nearly 68,000. Pentagon and White House officials have made little mention of the extra manpower, which includes engineers, medical personnel, and intelligence experts.

The total numbers of American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq is now higher than at the height of the Iraq surge, highlighting the strain on the military, notes the Washington Post. Defense Secretary Robert Gates plans to ask for the flexibility to send even more support troops—which he refers to as "enablers"—ahead of any decision to send more combat personnel to Afghanistan, although officials say any big increase will be hard to sustain.