Pentagon announces first troop deployment

Dec. 7, 2009 at 5:40 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- About 16,000 U.S. Marines and soldiers were notified Monday they will be deployed to Afghanistan as part of President Obama's strategy, the Pentagon said.

The troops in Monday's announcement primarily will come from Camp Lejeune, N.C.; Fort Drum, N.Y., and Camp Pendleton, Calif., Pentagon officials said in a news release.

About 1,500 Marines from Camp Lejeune will deploy later in December. Also, 6,200 Marines of Regimental Combat Team 2 at Camp Lejeune were alerted to deploy in the spring, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Camp Lejeune, N.C., to speak to the troops.

"My worst nightmare is terrorists with nuclear weapons," Mullen said. "Not only do I know they are trying to get them, but I know they will use them."

While at Camp Lejeune, the fatigues-wearing Mullen downplayed comparisons of Afghanistan to Vietnam.

"We shouldn't forget there are 42 other countries in Afghanistan with (U.S.) forces," Mullen said. "This isn't just the United States."

Mullen said Obama's strategy review included much discussion about the July 2011 target date for beginning the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

"You are going to be at the leading edge" of the fight in Afghanistan, he said.

Mullen said the counterinsurgency effort paid off in Iraq, and the president believes it will pay off in Afghanistan as well.

"All the lessons we learned in Iraq, specifically in what goes into counterinsurgency and how we think about it, we learned just in time to have the impact we need to have over the next couple of years in Afghanistan," he said. "In the long run, (Afghanistan) is not going to be about killing Taliban. In the long run, it's going to be because the Afghan people want them out."

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