Friday, July 4, 2008

Pentagon extends the tours of duty for Marines @ Afganistan.

The Pentagon has extended the tour of 2,200 Marines in Afghanistan, after insisting for months the unit would come home on time. The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is doing combat operations in the volatile south, will stay an extra 30 days and come home in early November rather than October, Marine Col. David Lapan confirmed Thursday.
Military leaders as recently as Wednesday stressed the need for additional troops in Afghanistan. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has often praised the work of the 24th MEU in fighting Taliban militants in Helmand Province.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, however, has repeatedly said he did not intend to extend or replace the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan, calling their deployment there an extraordinary, one-time effort to help tamp down the increasing violence in the south.
Asked about the possibility of an extension in early May, Gates said he would "be loathe to do that." He added that "no one has suggested even the possibility of extending that rotation."
Lapan said Thursday that commanders in Afghanistan asked that the Marines stay longer.

Based on a NATO report,
Afghanistan and ISAF took the first steps June 30 to transition air traffic control at Kabul International Airport to the country’s government.
His Excellency Hamidullah Qaderi, Afghan Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, and Major General J.L.H. Eikelboom, Director of ISAF’s Air Coordination Element, met to sign a letter of agreement to begin the process.
Currently ISAF provides and manages all air traffic controllers at the airport. With this agreement, ISAF will bring in civilian controllers who are internationally certified. ISAF will then train the civilian controllers on the specifics of Kabul International Airport. Once the civilian controllers are locally certified, ISAF controllers will turn the civilian controllers and responsibility over to the Afghanistan government.
With Afghanistan’s guidance, the fully qualified civilian controllers will begin training Afghans for the job. In time, the civilian contractors will be able to depart, leaving the tower of Afghanistan’s largest airport run solely by Afghans.
"This is an important step for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan," said Brigadier General Carlos Branco, ISAF spokesperson. "The government is ready for this move, and ISAF is here to help make this a smooth transition. In the end, it will also mean more jobs for Afghans."
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