December 6th, 2009
04:07 PM ET

Barbara Starr on the front lines

AFGHANISTAN (CNN) - It's another cold, blustery day in Afghanistan, and winter is setting in. That's going to be a major challenge for U.S. troops as the surge of 30,000 U.S. forces gets under way here.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has already signed the orders that will send some of the first troops here. The Marines are expected to be among the first to arrive, to be followed by a good number of Army forces and other support units. All of this aimed at carrying out this policy, this strategy, if you will, of protecting the Afghan people and providing enough security to take the oxygen out of the Taliban movement, out of the insurgent forces.

And we already saw some of that at work earlier today when we went on a foot patrol with some U.S. forces and saw them interact directly with Afghan villagers. That's what it's all about, trying to provide this new profile of U.S. troops being here to help but also here to provide that security to make the Taliban realize they don't have a future in the country.

It's going to take a long time to see if all of that works. And security will continue to be job No. 1. The Air Force planes are a crucial part of that. They are here to work, to provide that security, to conduct air missions against the insurgents when they find them, but also to make sure that they are not inadvertently killing civilians in their missions as, unfortunately, they have done so in the past.

So all of this working together, all of it is going to take a long time. But the hope of the U.S. strategy is that they can begin to see progress and begin to perhaps withdraw some U.S. forces in 18 months.

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