WASHINGTON - Military planners now think they may need to send more than double the number of extra troops initially believed needed to help fight the war in Afghanistan.
The buildup in the increasingly violent campaign could amount to more than 20,000 troops rather than the originally planned 10,000, two senior defense officials said Wednesday on condition of anonymity because no new figures have been approved.
The newest calculations reflect growing requests from field commanders in recent weeks for aviation units, engineers and other skills to support the fighting units, the officials said.
Officials had been saying for months that they needed more people to train Afghan security forces and two more combat brigades - a total of some 10,000 people.
Commanders later increased that to the trainers and three combat brigades - or about 15,000, when extra support is included.
Now, military planners say that the number may have to grow yet again by another 5,000 to 10,000 support troops. They would be helicopter units, intelligence teams, engineers to build more bases, medical teams and others to support the fight in the undeveloped nation, where forces have to work around rugged terrain and a lack of infrastructure.
The growing numbers being quoted for the buildup in Afghanistan are not unusual.
President Bush announced in January 2007 that he would send up to 20,000 additional troops to Iraq for what since has become known as the "surge."
It is unclear whether the number will win approval. Some officials think it's unwise to build too large a force in Afghanistan, where there is long-held hostility to the presence of foreign forces.