WASHINGTON — The U.S. is sending up to 100 additional Marines to Afghanistan to bulk up its advising force in Helmand province, the Pentagon confirmed Tuesday.
The deployment, first reported by NBC News, will be filled by Marines who are already deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of operations, said Maj. Josh Jacques, a CENTCOM spokesman.
“It will be increased capability for the commander on the ground,” Jacques said.
A spokesman for Resolute Support, NATO’s advise, train and assist mission in Afghanistan also confirmed the move, saying the forces would be deployed “for a short period of time to assist Marines already there” in Task Force Southwest advising Afghan forces as they fight the Taliban, the spokesman said.
U.S. advisers are typically attached to Afghan fighting units to assist with ground strategy and airstrike coordination.
Jacques added that the move was a tactical adjustment and not tied to the anticipated new strategy for Afghanistan, known as the South Asia plan. President Donald Trump delegated the authority to make tactical troop increases to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in June.
The Pentagon would not provide specifics on the number of additional forces being allocated or whether they were in country, but did indicate the total number was several dozen, to total no more than 100.
There are approximately 8,400 U.S. forces in Afghanistan conducting counter-terrorism missions against the Islamic State group and other terror organizations. In addition, U.S. forces support NATO’s train, advise and assist mission to help Afghan forces fight the Taliban.
Tara Copp is the Pentagon Bureau Chief for Military Times and author of the award-winning military nonfiction "The Warbird: Three Heroes. Two Wars. One Story."