Story Highlights• About 3,200 troops will go to Afghan-Pakistani border in spring
• Those troops had been training for Iraq; new troops will replace them there
• A general said he needed the troops to combat an expected Taliban offensive
• The deployment will keep U.S. troop level at about 27,000
From Mike Mount
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Expecting the resurgent Taliban to stage a spring offensive, the U.S. military is moving a brigade of troops into Afghanistan, instead of Iraq, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.
About 3,200 soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade base in Vicenza, Italy, will go this spring to the porous eastern Afghan border with Pakistan. The soldiers will replace the already extended 3rd Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division.
The 173rd already was training to deploy to Iraq, Pentagon officials said.
Moving the 173rd into Afghanistan will have no effect on the forces scheduled to deploy to Baghdad because commanders will identify other troops to replace the brigade, the officials said.
The new troops will keep the level of U.S. forces in Afghanistan at about 27,000, the highest number of U.S. troops there since the October 2001 invasion.
The decision to move the troops came last month when Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited the then-commander in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry.
The general told Gates he needed the additional soldiers to deal with rising violence in the country and to combat an expected Taliban assault in the spring.
Eikenberry extended the 3rd Brigade's tour by 120 days, until another unit could be identified to replace them.
There is no official date set for moving the brigade into Afghanistan, and there has been no word on what units will replace the 173rd in Iraq.
About 50,000 U.S. and NATO troops are currently inside Afghanistan.
Sgt. Dave Hulse runs past an artillery gun in eastern Afghanistan in this October photo. More troops are being diverted to the region to battle the Taliban.