Obama authorizes reservists for Ebola fight in W.Africa

WASHINGTON- President Barack Obama on Thursday authorized the Pentagon to send reservists to take part in a US mission to combat the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

Obama said reservists could be called up to active duty for humanitarian aid operations related to the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa, according to an executive order released by the White House.

The US military has said it plans a force of 3,200 troops in Liberia and Senegal to provide logistical and engineering support in the international fight against the deadly virus, but said it has approval to expand the mission to nearly 4,000 if needed.

There are now more than 500 active duty troops in Liberia and Senegal for the mission.

The reservists — who would be called up due to their particular technical expertise — would be part of that 4,000-strong force, a military official said.

In January 2010, Obama ordered the deployment of reservists to Haiti to take part in humanitarian aid work in the wake of a devastating earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people.

At the height of that operation, more than 20,000 US soldiers were in the Caribbean country.

On Wednesday, Obama once again urged the international community to do more to combat the outbreak of the virus, which has killed nearly 4,500 people, almost all of them in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

In a video conference with his British, French, German and Italian counterparts, he called on them to “make a more significant” contribution to the fight.

The Pentagon has said no US troops will have contact with patients infected with the virus, but a small number of medical specialists are testing blood samples at several mobile testing labs.