On Nov. 30, the US Department of Defense announced what appears to be the second stage of its drawdown of military forces in Afghanistan: the cancellation of the 37th Infantry Brigade’s mission to Afghanistan. From the official press release:
The Department of Defense announced today changes to the mission of the 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) due to reduced requirements in Afghanistan.
The 37th IBCT, 38th Infantry Division, consisting primarily of Army National Guard units from Ohio and Michigan, began mobilizing in early October 2011, for deployment to Afghanistan.
All of the re-missioned 37th Soldiers will be serving in various security force assignments guarding U.S. forces and facilities in both Afghanistan and Bahrain.
The US currently has roughly 11 combat brigades in Afghanistan: 2 Marine, 8 Army, and 1 National Guard. They are stationed across Afghanistan, with 5 brigades in the South/Southwestern region, 5 brigades in Eastern region and 1 brigade in the Northern region.
In June 2011, President Obama announced that the US would begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, from the then current level of 100,000 troops to 67,000 by September 2012. The withdrawal would occur in three stages:
- First stage occurred in July and consisted of 3,000 troops
- Second stage would occur by December 2011 and consist of 7,000 troops or roughly 1 brigade
- Third stage would occur by September 2012 and consist of 23,000 troops or roughly 3 brigades
The 37th Infantry Brigade had been was scheduled to replace the 170th Brigade, presently based in northern Afghanistan and assigned counterinsurgency operations. The 170th Brigade is scheduled to return to the US in January. With the announcement of the remissioning of the 37th Brigade, it is now likely that 170th Brigade will return to the US without being replaced. While not specifically stated in the announcement, this appears to constitute the second stage of the planned drawdown.
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