Army Chief: 2nd Advisory Team Will Go to Afghanistan Despite Withdrawal Plan

U.S. Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Security Force Assistance Brigade, move to a nearby village as part of a live fire exercise at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Oct. 24, 2018. (U.S. Army/Spc. Andrew McNeil)
U.S. Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Security Force Assistance Brigade, move to a nearby village as part of a live fire exercise at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Oct. 24, 2018. (U.S. Army/Spc. Andrew McNeil)

The U.S. Army's chief of staff said Wednesday that the service's 2nd Security Force Assistance Brigade will deploy to Afghanistan despite the plan to withdraw about 7,000 U.S. forces from the war-torn country.

The Army announced in October that it planned to deploy the 2nd SFAB to Afghanistan, but press reports in late December of a decision by President Donald Trump to cut the 14,000 U.S. troops in the country by half cast doubt on the scheduled spring deployment of the specialized advise-and-assist brigade.

However, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said Wednesday morning that the second of six SFABs is finishing up its training at Fort Polk, Louisiana, for the deployment.

"The 2nd SFAB ... is going through their exercise down at the Joint Readiness Training Center, and they will be deploying shortly to Afghanistan," he told an audience at an Association of the United States Army's Institute of Land Warfare Breakfast.

"The 1st SFAB has deployed and now has redeployed from Afghanistan. And all of the reports that we have received ... from theater were extraordinarily positive," Milley said. "It's a tactical effect; it's not a strategic effect necessarily, but the tactical effect that they had was very positive."

The Army has stood up five SFABs in the active force so it could assign at least one to combatant commands such as U.S. Central Command, Africa Command, European Command, Indo-Pacific Command and Southern Command, he said.

The National Guard's 6th SFAB is intended to cover Northern Command, Milley added.

"We have been doing security force assistance for well over a century, and we think, the United States Army thinks, that we will be involved in security force assistance for many years and decades to come, no matter where it is," he said.

The SFABs were stood up to relieve conventional brigades from performing advise-and-assist missions, Milley said.

"We have a conventional brigade in Africa. We have five of them in the Middle East, so these chains of command of these conventional brigades have been ripped apart doing it. So we want to recover the conventional brigades, put in these Security Force Assistance Brigades and then, in combination with the great efforts of our Special Forces, we think we can continue to execute the ... security force assistance mission," he said.

The bulk of the troops in Afghanistan are serving in an advisory role to prepare Afghan security forces to be able to operate on their own. Commanders in Afghanistan plan to withdraw about 7,000 U.S. forces from the country over the next eight to 12 months, but Special Operations Forces will likely remain in country, conducting direct-action operations against enemy forces.

Army SFABs will likely continue to deploy to the Central Command region because "right now, that is where they are being used ... because that is where the demand is," Milley said.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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