New U.S. troops in Afghanistan see combat
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Close to 3,000 American soldiers who recently arrived in Afghanistan to secure two violent provinces near Kabul have begun operations and already are seeing combat, the unit's spokesman said Monday.
The new troops are the first wave of an expected surge of reinforcements this year.
U.S. commanders have been contemplating sending up to 30,000 more soldiers to bolster the 33,000 already here, but the Obama administration is expected to initially approve only a portion of that number. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday that the president would decide soon.
The new unit—the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division—moved into Logar and Wardak provinces last month. Militants have attacked several patrols with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, including one ambush by 30 insurgents, Lt. Col. Steve Osterhozer, the brigade spokesman, said.
Also Monday, U.S. officials said a coalition airstrike killed a Taliban commander who broke a promise to renounce violence after President Hamid Karzai freed him from prison.
The attack destroyed a building housing Ghulam Dastagir and eight other militants in the village of Darya-ye-Morghab, near the Turkmenistan border, the U.S. military said in a statement.
Dastagir was responsible for a surge in violence in the province in recent months, including a November attack on an Afghan army convoy that killed 13 soldiers, the statement said.