More than 6,000 Fort Carson soldiers will head to Afghanistan in the coming months, joining a planned surge of American forces aimed at quelling violence there.
The long-rumored deployment was confirmed Thursday by Patrick Murphy, who was the Obama administration's top Army civilian leader, during a speech at the post. Murphy, who served as the acting Army secretary until Donald Trump took office in January, was in Colorado Springs to tout a U.S. Chamber of Commerce program to help former troops get civilian employment.
He told a crowd of troops and civilians that the 4th Infantry Division headquarters and its 2nd Brigade Combat Team are the units headed to Afghanistan.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with you," Murphy said of the deployment. "Get the job done."
The strange source of the deployment announcement came as the Pentagon shows growing reluctance to talk about which units will head overseas to accomplish Trump's goal of winning the 16-year-old Afghanistan war.
In August, Trump outlined a new policy of secrecy while outlining his Afghanistan strategy.
"America's enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out," Trumps said in the August speech "I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will."
Murphy said the Fort Carson troops will head to the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, an area that has been repeatedly pacified by American forces only to return to insurgent hands.
While several sources have confirmed the 2018 deployment of the brigade and division headquarters, Fort Carson officially will not confirm the deployment. A spokeswoman said Thursday night the post has received no notification of any imminent deployment.
The units Murphy mentioned include the 4,500-soldier 2nd Brigade, one of America's most experienced units in Afghanistan combat and the most decorated unit to emerge from 16 years of fighting there.
The brigade is made up of ground-pounding infantry who can climb through the mountainous terrain near Kandahar to target insurgents. Much of Kandahar province lacks roads required for armored units.
Three 2nd Brigade soldiers since 2009 have earned the Medal of Honor for heroism in Afghanistan combat.
The brigade will be joined overseas by the 4th Infantry Division headquarters led by Maj. Gen. Randy George, Murphy said.
George, who took command of the division in August, led the predecessor unit to 2nd Brigade on one of its most storied deployments to Afghanistan and is known as one of America's top strategists for targeting the Taliban and the remnants of Al Qaida.
In recent deployments, American troops have acted as advisers to Afghanistan's Army rather than taking a more active role in fighting.
That's likely to change under the strategy outlined by Trump last month.
Trump pledged to give commanders in the field broad authority to determine targets and said American troops will actively engage enemies.
"These killers need to know they have nowhere to hide; that no place is beyond the reach of American might and Americans arms," Trump said. "Retribution will be fast and powerful."
There's been no announcement of other American forces that will join in the Afghanistan buildup.
The Fort Carson units are not likely to head overseas before the end of the year.
The division headquarters is wrapping up a year of operations in Europe and still has a significant detachment in Germany supervising North Atlantic Treaty Association training.
The brigade is in the middle of a significant training cycle.
Under new commander Col. David Zinn, a veteran of three tours in Iraq, the brigade is heading to Fort Polk, La., this fall to fight a mock war to certify their preparedness for war.
The deployment news comes at a busy time for the post. Fort Carson's 3rd Brigade Combat Team is packing up and preparing to return home after nine months in Eastern Europe. The post's 1st Brigade Combat is preparing for its second mock war at Fort Irwin California in six months.
Elements of the post's 4th Sustainment Brigade are heading back to Colorado Springs after helping with hurricane relief efforts in Texas.
Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240 Twitter: @xroederx