The U.S. military campaign to help eradicate Ebola from West Africa sounds anything but surgical. It will take–for now–nearly 4,000 American troops, cost $750 million, and it could last a year or longer.
"This is not a small effort, and this is not a short period of time," the commander of U.S. forces in Africa, General David Rodriguez, said on Tuesday.
Briefing reporters at the Pentagon, Rodriguez offered new details about the military mission that will be based in Liberia, which is part of what the Obama administration has called a "whole of government" effort to halt the Ebola outbreak before it hits the U.S. in earnest.
Troops are helping to construct seven testing labs and 17 treatment facilities, which they hope to have up and running by mid-November, Rodriguez said.
He emphasized that a core goal is to protect U.S. soldiers from becoming infected themselves and noted that a vast majority of them will not come in direct contact with Ebola patients.
But a few dozen troops trained for the most dangerous nuclear, biological, and chemical environments will be tasked with staffing the testing centers.
"The bottom line is it’s the highest level" of training, Rodriguez said. "They are specifically trained to do that, and that is their speciality."
U.S. and international health officials have sounded increasingly urgent warnings about the outbreak in West Africa, which has killed more than 3,400 people and infected 7,500 in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, according to the World Health Organization.