5264155The Pentagon will swap out as many as 14,000 "clerical" and other non-combat troops for "trigger pullers" in Afghanistan — a way for commanders to boost the fighting force without altering the overall troop presence, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.
The report, which cites anonymous defense officials in Washington, comes on the heels of U.S. commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal handing over his assessment of the war to his superiors at the Pentagon and in NATO. His analysis does not make specific recommendations on troop numbers, but it is widely later this year.
Officials told the Times that rotating out thousands of non-combat troops and replacing them with their frontline-ready comrades makes sense given the intensity of the fight against Taliban insurgents.
""It makes sense to get rid of the clerks and replace them with trigger-pullers," one Pentagon source told the paper. None of the officials who spoke to the Times were named, as the plans have not yet been officially announced, according to the report.
The officials told the Times' Julian E. Barnes that the troop-swap would not preclude a request for additional troops later in the year by McChrystal.
Commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, McChrystal's report calls for a revised strategy in the Afghan fight. One of the key elements is a recommendation that the focus of combat be shifted from taking the fight to militants in the country's rugged, rural areas to creating better ties with Afghans in population centers.
That philosophy will require more armed patrols in Afghanistan's towns and cities — work which can't be carried out by troops on clerical and support missions.
Officials who spoke to the Times said many of the non-combat troops rotated out of Afghanistan would likely be replaced by civilian contractors.
Private contractors behaving badly caused a huge headache for American war administrators in Iraq (think ), and the Afghan government has also taken issue with the armies of private citizens working for American dollars in their country.
A suspect in a roadside bomb attack last Friday was arrested with a cell phone containing a number to the Defense Ministry, and a new report by the United Nations says Afghanistan now has Latin-American-style drug cartels — working in conjunction with the Taliban and corrupt government officials.