US & Canada

US to send 1,400 additional marines to Afghanistan

US marines taking their positions after coming under fire in Afghanistan
Image caption Additional marines are scheduled to leave for Afghanistan within the next several weeks

The US is to send an additional 1,400 marines to southern Afghanistan in an effort to counter a Taliban offensive, a Pentagon official has said.

The marines are now being notified of the deployment and are scheduled to leave within several weeks, the defence department said.

The US hopes to "apply pressure on the enemy during the winter", a department spokesman said.

The US plans to begin withdrawing troops from the country in July.

Defence secretary Robert Gates had "approved additional marine forces to southern Afghanistan to exploit and consolidate gains already achieved and apply pressure on the enemy during the winter campaign", Defence Department spokesman Col Dave Lapan said.

The contingent could start arriving within weeks and is expected to be on the ground for a short mission of about 90 days.

'Fragile and reversible'

President Barack Obama approved a troop surge of 30,000 troops roughly one year ago. But the president gave Mr Gates leeway to add an extra 3,000 forces, if necessary.

There are currently about 97,000 US troops in Afghanistan, along with 45,000 forces from other countries, and officials said the new marines would not put the total number of US forces above the limit of 100,000 authorized by President Obama.

Following the publication of the US annual strategy review last month, Mr Obama said the US was "on track" to achieve its goals in Afghanistan.

The review stated that the US had made enough progress to start a "responsible reduction" of forces in July 2011.

But it says the gains made against the Taliban by a US troop surge remain "fragile and reversible".

The US plans to end combat operations in 2014 and transfer responsibility for the country's affairs to Afghans.

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