As it now stands, the plan calls for the deployment over a nine-month period beginning in March of three Army brigades from the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., and the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y., and a Marine brigade from Camp Lejeune, N.C., for as many as 23,000 additional combat and support troops.
In addition, a 7,000-strong division headquarters would be sent to take command of U.S.-led NATO forces in southern Afghanistan — to which the U.S. has long been committed — and 4,000 U.S. military trainers would be dispatched to help accelerate an expansion of the Afghan army and police.
....The administration's plan contains "off-ramps," points starting next June at which Obama could decide to continue the flow of troops, halt the deployments and adopt a more limited strategy or "begin looking very quickly at exiting" the country, depending on political and military progress, one defense official said.
"We have to start showing progress within six months on the political side or military side or that's it," the U.S. defense official said.
....As part of its new plan, the administration, which remains skeptical of Karzai, will "work around him" by working directly with provincial and district leaders, a senior U.S. defense official told McClatchy.
A few comments:
- The McClatchy crew has been way ahead of everyone else on this story.
- If they're right, Obama essentially made this decision in early November. It's not entirely clear what all the meetings since then have been for. Getting their PR ducks in a row?
- If their "senior defense official" is correct, the plan does indeed include a strong tribal component, as blogged about last night.
One other thing: I'm sort of a connoisseur of the excuses that reporters use these days for relying on anonymous sources, and I really like this one: "U.S. officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because...one official said, the White House is incensed by leaks on its Afghanistan policy that didn't originate in the White House." That's admirably direct. Nobody wants to piss off the CinC!