The gang at McClatchy say their sources tell them that Obama has made up his mind about Afghanistan. He plans to increase troop levels by 34,000:
As it now stands, the administration’s plan calls for sending 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, for a total of as many as 23,000 additional combat and support troops.
Another 7,000 troops would man and support a new division headquarters for the international force’s Regional Command (RC) South in Kandahar, the Taliban birthplace where the U.S. is due to take command in 2010. Some 4,000 additional U.S. trainers are likely to be sent as well, the officials said.
The first additional combat brigade probably would arrive in Afghanistan next March, the officials said, with the other three following at roughly three-month intervals, meaning that all the additional U.S. troops probably wouldn’t be deployed until the end of next year. Army brigades number 3,500 to 5,000 soldiers; a Marine brigade has about 8,000 troops.
But apparently Team Obama wants some more time to work on their PR campaign before they announce this publicly. “This is not going to be an easy sell, especially with the fight over health care and the (Democratic) party’s losses” of the governors’ mansions in New Jersey and Virginia last week, according to one unnamed source. I’ll buy that.