About 2,400 troops from Fort Hood will deploy to Afghanistan next spring, the Defense Department announced Friday.
The local soldiers — 2,050 from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment and 350 from the 1st Cavalry Division Headquarters — will join about 6,000 other soldiers coming from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., and elsewhere in the Army, according to a news release.
“The 1st Cavalry Division Headquarters continues to train and prepare for the announced deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom,” 1st Cavalry commander Maj. Gen. Anthony R. Ierardi said in a statement. “The soldiers of the division are committed to mission readiness and ensuring that the right skills and capabilities are in place to effectively accomplish assigned missions in the important work ahead.”
That work ahead may involve the final chapter of America’s 12-year involvement in the war in Afghanistan, which began after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Continued support hinges on delicate decisions about what to do at the end of 2014, when a NATO mandate ends and all foreign combat forces leave the country.
The U.S. is already in a period of withdrawing troops from the region, resulting in a wave of recent homecomings for Fort Hood troops, some of whom ended their deployments three or four months early.
However, U.S. officials are concerned that a full exodus from the country could have detrimental effects.
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned the withdrawal of most U.S. and allied forces from Afghanistan by the end of next year could reverse gains made in the war against the Taliban and further destabilize the region.
Dempsey said he has not yet started making plans for a full withdrawal of all U.S. troops at the end of 2014.
The U.S. wants a deal with Afghanistan to be signed by Dec. 31 because it needs time to prepare to keep thousands of U.S. troops in the country for up to a decade. NATO allies said they won’t stay if the Americans pull out. Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign the deal, deferring the decision to his successor with elections set for early next year.
The agreement aims to help train and develop the Afghan National Security Forces, and allow for a smaller counterterrorism force to go after stubborn remnants of al-Qaida and other groups.
Germany has 3,300 forces in the country and pledged about 800 to remain after 2014. The U.S. has 46,000 troops in Afghanistan and its allies have another 26,000, down from nearly 150,000 two years ago.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.