June 2, 2010

Maine troops likely to take on Taliban in the next month

TREVOR MAXWELL

— By

Staff Writer

The Maine Army National Guard does not have any units in Afghanistan this week, as the United States and its international allies carry out a major offensive in the southern part of the country.

The 152 soldiers of the Maine Guard's Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry, based in Brewer, are finishing their training in Louisiana.

They are expected to be deployed to the mountains of northern Afghanistan -- on the country's volatile border with Pakistan -- later this month or in early March.

''This offensive doesn't affect their mission at all,'' Gen. John W. Libby, head of the Maine Army National Guard, said Friday night.

Members of the 172nd have been trained to engage Taliban fighters in the mountains of the border region, Libby said. It will be a highly dangerous mission, comparable to that of the troops sent in early Saturday to regain the Taliban-held town of Marjah.

''It will be the same kind of operations. They are going to take occupied ground,'' Libby said of the 172nd.

Another 160 soldiers from Maine are scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan later this year, most likely in May or June, Libby said. The mission of the 1136th Transportation Company, which has locations in Bangor, Calais and Sanford, will be to provide security at a fixed location. Libby said the unit doesn't know where it will be in Afghanistan.

Libby said 82 Maine soldiers assigned to the 286th Combat Support Services Battalion recently returned safely from Afghanistan.

The 133rd Engineer Combat Battalion, with 540 members, had been expected to deploy to Iraq this year, but those plans were canceled. Libby said he doesn't expect the 133rd to be mobilized during the next few years.

Since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, the Maine National Guard has sent more than 2,300 men and women to the region. Eight have died.

 

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at:

tmaxwell@pressherald.com

 

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