Just when you thought the Afghanistan experience could not possibly suck any more, coronavirus has found a way to do precisely that.
The top U.S. military commander in in Afghanistan has announced a “temporary pause” in moving troops into theater while Operation Resolute Support and contributing nations establish pre-deployment screening protocols for COVID-19.
“In some cases, these measures will necessitate some service members remaining beyond their scheduled departure dates to continue the mission,” Army Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller announced on Thursday.
Operation Resolute Support is currently assessing how many U.S. troops will have to stay in Afghanistan longer than expected, a defense official told Task & Purpose.
Roughly 1,500 service members from the United States and allied nations along with civilians and contractors are already being held in screening facilities before going elsewhere, Miller said.
“Most are either newly-arriving or returning from leave,” Miller said in the statement. “Let me be clear – these service members are living in screening facilities out of an abundance of caution, not because they are sick.”
A total of 21 Resolute Support personnel are in isolation because they have shown flu-like symptoms, Miller said. There is no laboratory in Afghanistan to test them for coronavirus, so samples are sent to Germany for analysis.
The United States has committed to drawing down from about 13,000 to 8,600 troops in Afghanistan as part of a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban.
That drawdown is expected to continue, Army Col. William “Sonny” Leggett, the top U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, tweeted on Wednesday.