US Army to send 800-member aviation unit to Afghanistan

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 27, 2016 17:02 IST
An Afghan soldier inspects a destroyed vehicle after an operation to capture Islamic State fighters in Kot district of eastern Nangarhar province on Tuesday. (AFP)

An US Army aviation unit with 800 soldiers and attack and transport helicopters will be deployed in Afghanistan later this summer to support Afghan troops engaged in the campaign against the Taliban and other militant groups.

The 1st Combat Aviation Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division will deploy on a regular rotation of forces to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, the campaign against the Taliban, Islamic State, al Qaeda and other groups.

The unit is equipped with Black Hawk, Chinook and Apache helicopters and has the primary mission of supporting Afghan military efforts, spokesman Lt Col Kimeisha McCullum told Stars And Stripes, the official newspaper of the US armed forces.

McCullum said the US unit can expect medical evacuation and logistical support missions, but declined to say whether the troops will play a role in close air support or training their Afghan counterparts.

The deployment comes amid violence threatening to further destabilise the NATO operation in Afghanistan. A suicide bombing in Kabul on Saturday, which was claimed by the Islamic State, killed 80 people.

Afghan police and military forces have struggled to maintain security after President Barack Obama declared an end to the US military’s combat role in 2014. American forces now act in an advisory and assistance role, though there have been occasional US-led special operations.

NATO decided in May to extend operations in Afghanistan beyond 2016, and about 9,800 US troops remain in the country.

Earlier this month, Obama announced a change in plans for US troop deployments in Afghanistan, saying 8,400 personnel will remain in the country till next year. Obama had initially planned to cut the US troop presence to 5,500 before he left office at the end of the year.

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