The U.S. Army is building eight major operating bases in southern Afghanistan in an expansion that underscores a new, larger troop commitment to try to defeat the stubborn Taliban insurgency.
The planned network of new bases shows the degree to which U.S. commanders will step up operations to hunt down bands of Taliban insurgents from multiple staging points as part of the Iraq-style troop surge.
Setting up new bases is a touchy issue in Afghanistan, where local leaders only talk of temporary U.S. facilities as opposed to a long-term American presence.
A spokesman for Fluor Corp., the global construction company selected by the Army to build the new forward operating bases or FOBs, declined to comment to HUMAN EVENTS. "It has not been announced," the spokesman said. The Army did not respond to questions emailed by HUMAN EVENTS.
But two defense sources told HUMAN EVENTS the company will build eight of the largest FOBs in Afghanistan in the Kandahar area and other southern Afghanistan locations. This area is the birthplace of the radical Taliban movement that seized control of the country in the 1990s and was ousted from power by the U.S. in 2001.
"The earlier bases were meant to hold hundreds. These will house thousands," one source said. The price tag: about $400 million.
FOBs are typically comprised of prefabricated buildings for dining, barracks, headquarters, recreation and training. That way, the U.S. command can refer to them as temporary, even thought they may remain operational for years.
The construction is beginning, and the bases could be ready in early 2009 to house the planned major buildup of American forces. There is already of network of FOBs in eastern Afghanistan, where coalition forces are trying to plug the infiltration of Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists from Pakistan’s lawless tribal region.
One of the most notable FOBs in the south is the former compound of Mullah Omar, the reclusive Taliban leader who fled the country during the initial U.S. invasion. That base is used by secretive special operations forces and the CIA.
The FOBs are used as launching pads for troops to attack enemy forces who move among villages trying to retake territory and execute ambushes against allied forces. Canadian, British and other NATO troops are now stationed in southern Afghanistan. Their success against Taliban insurgents has been spotty at best, prompting the Pentagon to send U.S. Marines into the south in 2008 to thwart an enemy offensive.
Pentagon officials talk of sending four additional combat brigade teams into Afghanistan, beginning next year. The reinforcement could reach 30,000 troops, about doubling the number now there.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates was in the country in mid-December, conferring with top commanders.
"I do believe that there will be a requirement for a sustained commitment here for some protracted period of time," he told reporters during a stop in Kandahar. "How many years that is and how many troops that is, I think nobody knows at this point."
Gates cited the words of a Dutch commander who believes the situation in the south has deteriorated.
" I think that if I could put words in his mouth, I would say he believes that the Afghan security forces and their international partners are holding their own in [regional command] South," he said. "But I think everybody would agree that holding your own isn’t good enough."