How hurricane relief is stalling US troops' Afghanistan deployment

U.S. military disaster relief assistance to Puerto Rico is delaying the deployment of additional troops to Afghanistan, Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. told Pentagon reporters October 5th.

McKenzie cited the logistical challenge of moving large amounts of supplies and personnel to Puerto Rico and the requirement for transport aircraft. The Pentagon only has a limited amount of transport aircraft, which are also used to move U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

The U.S. has approximately 11,000 military personnel on Puerto Rico but still faces a dire recovery effort. Only 8.6 percent of the island now has electricity and 47 percent of the population has drinking water, the Pentagon noted in a statement October 5.

California Air National guardsmen, Tech. Sgt. Mike DiSanto and Master Sgt. Eric Valdez, MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft loadmasters, looks out across the clear water of Florida's Key region during a reconnaissance and refueling mission supporting search and rescue efforts following hurricane Irma, September 11, 2017. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Prouse/released)

California Air National guardsmen, Tech. Sgt. Mike DiSanto and Master Sgt. Eric Valdez, MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft loadmasters, looks out across the clear water of Florida’s Key region during a reconnaissance and refueling mission supporting search and rescue efforts following hurricane Irma, September 11, 2017. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Prouse/released)

Pentagon Chief Spokesman Dana White clarified that the delay was only “slight,” adding that “there are still troops flowing in.” Secretary of Defense James Mattis ordered approximately 3,000 troops to Afghanistan in late August after President Donald Trump green-lit a new strategy for the U.S. in Afghanistan.

Mattis previewed the new strategy before Congress on Tuesday calling it “R4+S” which stands for “regionalize, realign, reinforce, reconcile, and sustain.” The strategy hits upon larger themes of President Donald Trump’s Aug. 21 address to the American people in which he pledged to adopt a conditions-based approach for withdrawal from Afghanistan — one that focuses on pressuring Pakistan to crack down on terror safe havens.

The ultimate goal of the strategy is “reconciliation,” which entails “convincing our foes that the coalition is committed to a conditions-based outcome, we intend to drive fence-sitters and those who will see that we’re not quitting this fight to reconcile with the Afghan National Government.”

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