The U.S. Army announced it is deploying 1,800 troops to Iraq and Afghanistan to take part in assistance and advisory efforts for indigenous forces in both countries.
The 101st Airborne Division, based out of Fort Campbell, Ky., is sending about 1,300 soldiers from its 2nd Brigade Combat Team to Iraq as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. The group will assume the mission of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, which is rotating back to Fort Drum, N.Y., after arriving in September to train and advise Iraqi security forces fighting the Islamic State.
Likewise, the 10th Mountain Division is deploying 500 troops from its 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment to Afghanistan this winter for a nine-month mission as part of the National Support Element at Bagram Airfield.
Both units will join their respective division headquarters in either country. The 10th Mountain Division's headquarters element is station at Bagram Airfield, and the 101st's headquarters is expected to deploy soon to Iraq and Kuwait to serve as the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command-Iraq under the division's commander, Maj. Gen. Gary J. Volesky, Stars and Stripes reported.
About 3,500 U.S. troops are serving in Iraq, mainly as advisers to Iraqi security forces, and 9,800 are serving in Afghanistan under a similar role for the Afghan army and police.
NATO officially handed the combat mission in Afghanistan to local forces at the end of 2014, but a resurgence in Taliban attacks in the country prompted changes in the withdrawal timeline.
President Barack Obama had planned to reduce U.S. troop strength there to 1,000 by the end of 2016. However, under recommendation from Afghanistan commander Gen. John Campbell, Obama later said he would keep the amount of U.S. military personnel in-country at about 9,800 through 2015.
Campbell said a plan to reduce U.S. troops in Afghanistan to 5,500 by 2017 should be delayed as long as possible.
Early last month, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced 12,000 troops would remain in Afghanistan through 2016 to assist local security forces.
Stoltenberg commended the efforts of Afghan security forces but noted that "challenges and capability gaps persist," adding that anti-militant operations by local forces needed to be "sustained and enhanced."