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US plans to significantly expand training for Ukrainian forces, US officials say

 


Washington CNN—

The Biden administration is considering a dramatic expansion of the training the U.S. military provides to Ukrainian forces, including instructing up to 2,500 Ukrainian soldiers a month at a U.S. base in Germany, according to multiple U.S. officials.

If passed, the proposal will mark a significant increase not only in the number of Ukrainians the United States trains, but also in the type of training they receive. Since the start of the conflict in February, the United States has trained only a few thousand Ukrainian soldiers, mostly in small groups, on specific weapons systems.

Under the new program, the United States would begin training much larger groups of Ukrainian soldiers in more sophisticated battlefield tactics, including how to coordinate infantry maneuvers with artillery support, a far more intense and comprehensive training than what Ukraine received in Poland or the UK, according to a source briefed on the proposal.

The proposal, which was made at the request of Ukraine, is still under interagency review by the administration. News of its existence comes more than nine months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the onset of winter is expected to slow down military operations.

A senior Biden administration official declined to comment on planning details, telling CNN that we are not going to preempt decisions that have not been made, but we are constantly looking for ways to ensure that Ukrainians have the skills they need to succeed on the battlefield as Ukraine defends its territory against Russian aggression.

How decisive the so-called combined arms formation will be on the battlefield remains an open question, as the conflict was mostly fought as a bitter war of attrition between two artillery armies, Mike Kofman said. , an expert on the Russian and Ukrainian armies at the Naval Analysis Center.

It’s a good idea because they [Ukraine] need all the training they can get, Kofman said. But the main variable on the battlefield right now is the availability of ammunition on both sides, he said. The Ukrainians will not be as effective in combined arms maneuvers if they do not have enough artillery ammunition.

U.S. European Command declined to comment.

U.S. officials told CNN that the colder weather and ensuing lull in fighting could provide a window to carry out a more robust training regimen, with Ukrainian forces torn between the need to train outside the country and the need for frontline workers. But those lines have stabilized to some extent, providing a potential opportunity for Ukraine to send troops for training to begin.

If approved, the new training program would take place at a US Army base in Grafenwoehr, Germany, where the US conducts its own combined arms training. The base is also home to the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine.

A German official told CNN that Berlin has not received an official request from the United States for additional training for Ukrainians at Grafenwoehr.

We don’t have an official request. But in general, it seems completely in line with our joint efforts to support Ukraine, a German official said.

German and US officials have been cooperating successfully for months to train Ukrainians in Germany, and during that time the US has been building up its long-term training capability.

Once the White House makes the decision to proceed, training for Ukrainian forces could begin quickly, an official said.

The United States is currently considering how best to scale up this operation from current efforts, another official said, because it will require a larger and more diverse pool of trainers. That’s one of the reasons the US turned to Grafenwoehr, where the military already has the resources to conduct more complex training.

The 7th Army Training Command in Grafenwoehr conducts live and virtual training for all armed forces in Europe and Africa, resources that may instead focus on Ukrainian forces.

The United States is not alone in its efforts to conduct large-scale training of Ukrainian forces. In July, the UK launched a major program to train 10,000 Ukrainian troops within months.

Clearly, there are similarities, an official said. But the UK’s program focused on basic training for new soldiers with little or no combat experience. The US program would provide a much more advanced degree of training for Ukrainian soldiers on how to operate as a cohesive military formation.

One element of US combined arms training that is unlikely to be offered to Ukrainians is how to integrate air support, one of the cornerstones of how the US military has used combined arms so successfully in many multiple conflicts. The Biden administration has refused to offer warplanes to Ukraine in its fight against Russia, raising new questions about the usefulness of such training.

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