Army chief recommends more troops in Afghanistan, but unsure on Korea

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The Army’s top general said Wednesday that he would support additional troops in Afghanistan and a residual force in Iraq, but hesitated on recommending more troops sent to South Korea.

During a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on defense, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) asked Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley if he supports “increasing the Army’s troop presence in Afghanistan as an insurance policy against another 9/11.”

Milley said he would support such an increase but would not offer specific numbers as the Trump administration is still deciding whether to send up to 5,000 more troops to add to the 8,400 currently deployed there.

Graham also asked Milley if he would recommend that America leave a residual force in Iraq should Mosul be taken back from the Islamic State. Milley said he would “if the government of Iraq will consider that.”


But when asked whether more troops are needed in South Korea as threats from North Korea grow, Milley said that was “a very difficult question, full of all kinds of nuances. So I can’t think of a yes or no.”

Milley added that the situation required “forward presence,” in the region to respond quickly to any issue — not necessarily more troops.

The Army’s $166.1 billion fiscal year 2018 request funds a total force of 1,018,000, including 476,000 active-duty soldiers.

The service is primarily focused on building combat readiness for that force rather than growing it, Milley told lawmakers.

“A hollow force only puts the Army and the nation’s security at risk,” he said. “Combat is very unforgiving and it is even more unforgiving on armies that are not manned, trained, equipped and well-led.”

He added, however, that “if more money became available and we were able to make sure we could maintain the readiness, we do have an additional request … which would increase the end strength capacity of the force.”

The chief was referring to the Army’s nearly $12.7 billion “wish list” sent to Congress last week, which asks for 17,000 additional troops.

The list of unfunded weapons, equipment, troops, maintenance and development activities that wasn’t included in the service’s budget request asks for $3.1 billion to pay for training, sustaining, housing and equipping the extra troops.

Milley also said he believes the Army should be a force of 540,000 to 550,000, the Army National Guard an end strength of 350,000 to 355,000, and 205,000 to 209,000 soldiers for the Army Reserve.

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