"You don't do it alone," Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday to a crowd gathered at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. "You do it with phenomenal family support. And we could not be the Marine Corps we are, the military we are without extraordinary family support." Mullen's pep talk - along with a question and answer session - was geared to the new 30,000-troop surge to Afghanistan that President Obama laid out last week. He also thanked those in the audience - many of whom will soon be deployed to Afghanistan. Military families struggle when their loved ones are serving in the war theater - both economically and emotionally.
The Pentagon said 1,500 troops from an infantry battalion task force at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina will head to Afghanistan later this month as the first step in the total deployment of 30,000 more troops the president announced. Another 13,500 troops will deploy by the end of spring, including an additional 6,200 Marines from Regimental Combat Team-2 at Camp Lejeune; 800 from I Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, California; 3,400 troops from a Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Brigade, 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum, New York; and 4,100 support forces, according to the Department of Defense.
Baraki Barak, Afghanistan (CNN) - One year ago, walking the streets of Baraki Barak would have been unthinkable. The Taliban ruled the town 30 miles south of Kabul, the market place was deserted and people stayed away. Today, it has a busy city center and the U.S. troops rely heavily on Afghan forces to keep it safe.
"This was one of the areas that was considered a sanctuary of the Taliban and the enemy. We fought with them to clear the area, secure the people, protect the population," says U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti.
The troops are heavily focused on working with Afghan forces to improve security in places like Baraki Barak. For example, Afghans control the town's checkpoints here. But it's not been easy. In Baraki Barak, the police chief started with just five men, and that number has grown to 50. Even with the additional help, attacks just outside the town continue.
Watch scenes from the streets and more from CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr
If you missed them this past weekend, the New York Times and the Washington Post had “tick-tocks” and behind-the-scenes details on President Obama’s decision on increasing U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
“The three-month review that led to the escalate-then-exit strategy is a case study in decision making in the Obama White House — intense, methodical, rigorous, earnest and at times deeply frustrating for nearly all involved. It was a virtual seminar in Afghanistan and Pakistan, led by a president described by one participant as something ‘between a college professor and a gentle cross-examiner,’ writes Peter Baker of the New York Times.
“As described in interviews by more than a dozen senior administration and military officials who took part in the strategy review, the final number of 30,000 more American troops and the timing of their deployment were among the last policy elements to be finalized,” report Anne E. Kornblut, Scott Wilson and Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post.
CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is traveling with the U.S. military all week in Afghanistan and reports that while development - building schools, medical clinics and businesses - is growing in some areas, in other areas where the Taliban is still in control, it continues to be a dangerous and fierce battle.
Starr talks with CNN Radio's Bill Caiaccio on what she's seen so far, how it differs from her past experience there and what the U.S. commanders think of the additional troops coming their way.
Since the announcement of a troop increase, observers are calling Afghanistan "Obama's War." But really, the war is in the hands of Obama's commanding Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
Top aides to President Obama on Sunday signaled that some U.S. troops could start coming home from Afghanistan as soon as July 2011, but most would likely remain there for several years.
In appearances on all the major talk shows, Cabinet officials and military advisers clarified the president's position after he walked a political tightrope by announcing he will send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan and that some will start coming home in 19 months.
National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones told CNN's "State of the Union" that the July 2011 start of withdrawal was "not a cliff, it's a ramp" for beginning to turn over security responsibility to Afghan forces.
Read more or watch more of John King's interview with National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones
Canada is expected to begin withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan in 2011 and it appears that the recent announcement by President Obama to increase the number of U.S. troops there will not change the plan.
The Canadian mission was supposed to end this February, but the Canadian parliament last year extended the mission for another two years.
Lawrence Cannon, the Canadian foreign minister, said that date still stands. FULL POST
Known as the "graveyard of empires," Afghanistan has a reputation for undoing ambitious military ventures and humiliating would-be conquerors, a fate U.S. President Obama's opponents at home say is not worth risking more American lives for.
In the past two centuries, both Soviet and British invaders have been forced to beat bloody retreats from Afghanistan, deprived of victories that, on paper, looked easy, but ultimately proved futile.
This, say some, is the inevitable Afghan experience. Isolated, poverty-stricken and brutalized by interminable conflict that technological advances in warfare fail to end, the country apparently remains as impervious to today's military adventurers as it was to yesterday's.