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Military by numbers

As President Obama decides how many more troops to send to Afghanistan, it is perhaps useful to check the current figures, and also to explain the complicated organisational structure of the military forces.

Last modified: 12 Nov 2009 07:32
Photo by Reuters

As President Obama decides how many more troops to send to Afghanistan, it is perhaps useful to check the current figures, and also to explain the complicated organisational structure of the military forces.

Some news agencies still refer to “over 90,000” troops in the country.
 
Actually, the figures have crept up a bit in recent weeks.
 
My calls to the military in recent days confirm that there are currently 105,000 international military personnel serving in the country.
 
These break down as follows:
 
65,000 - TOTAL NUMBER OF US TROOPS.
35,000 - US FORCES SERVING UNDER ISAF MANDATE
30,000 - US FORCES (OUTSIDE ISAF)
40,000 - NON-US ISAF FORCES
 
There are two separate international military forces in the country:
 
1. ISAF
International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is the NATO-led force with troops from 42 contributing countries.  
 
ISAF is split into five regional commands:
1. RC-EAST. US command. Based at Bagram Airfield, North of Kabul.
2. RC-WEST. Lead Nation: Italy. Based in Herat.
3. RC-NORTH. Lead Nation: Germany. Based in Mazar-e-Sharif
4. RC-SOUTH. Lead Nation: Rotates between UK, Canada, and Netherlands. Based at Kandahar Airfield.
5. RC-CAPITAL. Lead Nation: Rotates between France, Turkey and Italy. Based in Kabul.
 
You can see which other nations have forces in Afghan, and in which provinces on this chart from the ISAF website:
 
 

2. USFOR-A

Many US soldiers, however, do not wear the ISAF badge. They serve under USFOR-A, the separate American command structure. Sometimes these are known as Coalition or OEF Forces (Operation Enduring Freedom was the US invasion operation launched in 2001.)
 
These troops include those working on training the Afghan police and army. This part of USFOR-A is called “Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan” (CSTCA). 
 
However, the training operation is in the process of being brought into the NATO fold, and is being reorganised as part of an overall training command, called NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan. Both CSTC-A and NTM-A have the same commander, Major-General Richard Formica. The military call him “double-hatted”.
 
Also operating outside the ISAF structure, the US Special Forces, under “Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command” (CFSOCC-A), commanded by Brigadier-General Edward Reeder.
 
 It is all very complicated, but all international forces report ultimately to one man, General Stanley McCrystal. He is also “double-hatted”, as the Commander of ISAF (COMISAF) and Commander of USFOR-A.
 
In the last few weeks a new operational headquarters has been set up, under General David Rodriguez. ISAF Joint Command (IJC) is based at a recently expanded base at Kabul International Airport. The idea is that General Rodriguez (COMIJC) deals with the day-to-day tactics and operations, while his boss General McCrystal, based at ISAF Headquarters in the centre of the capital, concentrates on the grand strategy.
 
Some useful additional figures and what the military experts call the “order of battle” can be found on the Institute for the Study of War website, and at globalsecurity.org.