Third Infantry Division Commander Maj. Gen. Mike Murray will lead the upcoming deployment of U.S. Forces Afghanistan National Support element, and Deputy Commanding General (Support) Brig. Gen. Christopher Bentley will lead the Train, Advise and Assist Command-East deployment, according to 3rdID Deputy Public Affairs Officer Maj. Matthew Fontaine.
On Wednesday, Fontaine explained a Tuesday news release from the Department of Defense that announced 200 soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division’s headquarters will be deploying to Afghanistan later this month as part of the mandated 9,800 limit of U.S. troops staying in country after Jan. 1, 2015.
He offered a clearer understanding of the role and mission of the Marne Division leaders and troops taking part in this 12-month deployment. Fontaine emphasized the soldiers’ mission will be focused on training and advising Afghanistan National Security Forces.
“The training, advice and assistance our soldiers will provide the ANSF covers a variety of topics that would apply to a number of different situations,” Fontaine said, then responded to a question about whether the role of U.S. troops will involve dealing with ISIS. “I don’t want to speculate on any training specifically for ISIS … (However), force protection is always a top priority, (but) the ANSF are in the lead when it comes to combat operations.”
Tuesday’s DoD news release noted this deployment includes a supporting element in Qatar and a liaison in Kuwait, who together will assist the International Security Assistance Force, which will soon be called Resolute Support. The mission of U.S. forces now is to “mature” AFSF processes, institutions and systems in order to “ensure long-term sustainability.” This will include force generation, resourcing and budgeting, medical and maintenance logistics, and intelligence capabilities.
In the release, Murray said that as the capability of Afghan forces increases, the support provided by Resolute Support “will decrease proportionally.” He said U.S. troops no longer will be the force conducting patrols.
“(Marne soldiers) will be responsible for managing the Train, Advise and Assist mission of Afghan forces,” Fontaine said. “The headquarters will be responsible for what we call ‘Title 10’ responsibilities, which include things like training, equipping, maintaining, supplying and resourcing forces in theater. … They will also be responsible for supporting the drawdown of U.S. personnel and equipment.”
He said the soldiers deploying represent a cross-section of the Marne Division’s command staff with military occupational specialties and skills that are needed to help develop and improve the Afghan forces at the corps level and higher echelons. These are the skills necessary to improve and sustain their own military and police forces as U.S. and coalition partners continue to reduce personnel in Afghanistan, he said.
When asked about comparisons of U.S. forces leaving Afghanistan with their withdrawal from Iraq and even the withdrawal of U.S. Forces from South Vietnam, Fontaine said he preferred to defer that question to his commander, who will sit down with the Coastal Courier for an open discussion at 3rdID headquarters on Monday, Nov. 3.
Look for Murray’s comments from that interview in the Nov. 5 edition of the Courier.