101st Airborne headed for Afghanistan
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon said Sunday that troops from the Army's 101st Airborne Division are bound for Afghanistan to replace the Marine contingent based in Kandahar.
The Pentagon did not release a deployment date, citing operational security reasons. But officials have said the 101st Airborne -- based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky -- would be deployed in January.
The soldiers will replace Marines who have occupied Kandahar International Airport since mid-December.
A Defense Department statement said the division's mission will be "to defeat remaining Taliban and al Qaeda forces, process detainees and secure the Kandahar airfield to allow entry of humanitarian relief supplies and personnel."
The statement said the Marines are due for rotation out of Kandahar to give them the opportunity to prepare for future missions.
More than 1,000 Marines from the 15th and 26th Marine expeditionary units landed in Afghanistan in November to establish forward operating bases for U.S. forces battling the Taliban and al Qaeda, the terrorist movement blamed for the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
Advance teams for the United Nations have visited the airport to assess the potential for humanitarian aid delivery. But the U.S. military said the area around the airport remains "too dangerous" for daytime flights.
U.S. forces are holding 139 al Qaeda and Taliban fighters at the Kandahar airport for questioning about their involvement in terrorist activities.
Army troops have begun arriving in Kandahar to start preparations for the handover. The airport is expected to handle the arrival of humanitarian aid and possibly peacekeeping forces.
Created in 1942, paratroopers from the 101st Airborne fought in World War II and Vietnam. The division last saw combat during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
During the 1990s, its soldiers also were peacekeepers in the Balkans and Haiti and participated in aid missions in Somalia and Rwanda.
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