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U.S. reducing number of troops to Liberia

Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, commander of the Joint Forces Command – United Assistance, left, in Liberia

NEW YORK – After projecting as many as 4,000 troops would be sent to Liberia to address the Ebola outbreak, the U.S. Army said Wednesday the number will be limited to 3,000.

Just under 2,200 troops are in Liberia now, Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, said in a press briefing.

“We will top out at 3,000 troops in December, the most we plan to bring into Liberia,” he said.

Volesky explained that the number of troops the U.S. military plans to send has been reduced for two main reasons.

The Liberian government had resources the U.S. military did not fully appreciate before the deployment, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID, personnel in Liberia who arrived before the Army had made more progress than anticipated.

Bill Berger, USAID disaster assistance response team leader, also explained that additional international non-governmental organization partners coming to Liberia in larger numbers and with greater resources than anticipated has reduced the need for 101st Airborne involvement.

Volesky cautioned that while the rate of infection in Liberia is down, the number of total Ebola cases continues to increase.

Deborah Malac, U.S. ambassador to Liberia, said that while there was sufficient hospital-bed capacity in the capital of Monrovia, new cases are showing up in the rural areas of the country.

Malac said she does not believe that “rapid burial of the dead in an attempt to hide outbreaks of the sickness is responsible for a reduction in the rate of infection in Liberia.”

“As our public outreach efforts become more effective, people in Liberia have a greater understanding of the need to bring infected family members to hospital facilities for treatment as soon as possible,” she said.