Details of deployment - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Details of deployment

Military officials said at least one group of Marines is expected to deploy within two or three weeks of Obama's announcement, and would be in Afghanistan by Christmas. Larger deployments wouldn't be able to follow until early in 2010.

The initial infusion is a recognition by the administration that something tangible needs to happen quickly, officials said. The quick addition of Marines would provide badly needed reinforcements to those fighting against Taliban gains in the southern Helmand province, and could lend reassurance to both Afghans and a war-weary U.S. public.

Obama also insisted that a specific withdrawal scenario be built into the process of adding new forces.  White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in a TV interview Tuesday that Obama would lay out an endgame for U.S. involvement.  "We want to -- as quickly as possible -- transition the security of the Afghan people over to those national security forces in Afghanistan," he told ABC's "Good Morning America." "This can't be nation-building. It can't be an open-ended forever commitment."

Officials were not specific on the withdrawal date that Obama has in mind nor the changes the military will be required to make to get the troop deployments on the president's timeline.

Obama formally ends a 92-day review of the war with a nationally broadcast address from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.  He began rolling out his decision Sunday night, informing key administration officials, military advisers, and foreign allies in a series of private meetings and phone calls that stretched into Monday.

Obama's announcement comes near the end of a year in which the war has worsened despite Obama's previous infusion of 21,000 forces.

But the numbers of fresh troops don't tell the whole story, Gibbs said Tuesday. "It's what their mission is," he told ABC.  "We're going to accelerate going after al-Qaida and its extremist allies. We'll accelerate the training of an Afghan national security force, a police, and an army."

In Kabul, Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell, the new head of a U.S.-NATO command responsible for training and developing Afghan soldiers and police, said Tuesday that although the groundwork is being laid to expand the Afghan National Army beyond the current target of 134,000 troops, to be reached by Oct. 31, 2010, no fixed higher target is set.

There is a notional goal of eventually fielding 240,000 soldiers and 160,000 police, but Caldwell said that could change.  "Although that is a goal and where we think it could eventually go to, it's not a hard, firm, fixed number," he said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

He indicated that one reason for avoiding a hard-and-fast commitment to those higher numbers is the expected cost. So his orders are to reach the targets of 134,000 soldiers and 96,800 police by next October. He intends to hold annual reviews, beginning next spring or early summer, to determine whether the notional higher targets of 240,000 soldiers and 160,000 police -- for a combined total of 400,000 by 2013 -- are still the right goals for Afghanistan.

"If you grow it up to 400,000 -- if you did grow all the way to that number, and if it was required to help bring greater security to this country -- then of course you have to sustain it at that level, too, in terms of the cost of maintaining a force that size," he said. Nearly all the cost of building Afghan forces has been borne by the U.S. and other countries thus far.

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