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US Army says 500 soldiers will deploy to Afghanistan this summer


US Army photo

The U.S. Army on Tuesday announced 500 soldiers will deploy to Afghanistan this summer as part of a scheduled troop rotation.

The service in a release said the soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division Headquarters and Sustainment Brigade, based at Fort Hood, Texas, will replace the headquarters of the 10th Mountain Division at Bagram Airfield in the northeastern part of the country.

The unit will support Operation Freedom's Sentinel at the location as the national support element, according to the statement.

"The 1st Cavalry Division has once again been called by our nation's Army," Maj. Gen. John C. Thomson, III, commander, 1st Cavalry Division, said in the release. "First Team troopers are trained, well-led, and ready to accomplish assigned missions in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel."

The Army had previously announced that about 1,000 others from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, also based at Fort Hood, are also preparing to deploy to Afghanistan.

The soldiers were also expected to switch out with a number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and aren't likely to change the overall American military presence in the country of about 9,800 service members.

At the time of the previous announcement, Lt. Col. Sunset Belinsky, a spokeswoman for the 1st Cavalry Division, said the regiment will probably deploy in May or June. Soldiers were returning from the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, and planned to take a week or two of family leave before heading overseas, she said.

Belinsky said at least some of the soldiers may join colleagues from the 10th Mountain Division in the southern part of the country, but added that planners were still "looking at the mission closely, so it may not be exactly there."

The Defense Department announced in February that about 500 soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 87th Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, based at Fort Drum, New York, would be sent to Helmand Province to shore up an Afghan Army Corps battered by the Taliban.

In recent weeks, American F-16 fighter jets have "significantly increased pressure and the number of strikes" in eastern Nangarhar province bordering Pakistan, where fighters pledging allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, were believed to number 1,000-3,000, according to Army Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, chief spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan.

President Barack Obama last year adjusted plans for U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan.

Rather than reduce the military footprint in the country to a nominal embassy presence in Kabul by the end of 2016, Obama said the U.S. will maintain 5,500 troops and a small number of bases, including at Bagram and Jalalabad in the east and Kandahar in the south into 2017 to continue the mission of training and providing support to Afghan security forces, according to the Pentagon.

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