WASHINGTON – The first wave of President Barack Obama's new Afghanistan surge will add about 16,000 U.S. troops who got their orders over the past few days, the Pentagon announced Monday.
About 1,500 Marines from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina will leave for Afghanistan later this month, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters. He would not be precise about when those troops arrive, but military sources have said the first forces are expected on the ground by Christmas.
After the first of the year, the Marines begin sending another 6,200 from Lejeune, Whitman said, and 800 from Camp Pendleton in California.
The Army will also begin sending in the first of its forces — a training brigade from Fort Drum with about 3,400 members, N.Y. Whitman said about 4,100 support forces from various places will also deploy early next year.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates signed the deployment orders last week. They cover a little more than half the 30,000 additional troops approved by Obama as part of an overhauled war plan announced last week.
The overhaul followed three months of deliberations about whether and how much to expand on an already record U.S. fighting force of about 70,000.
Not covered in Monday's announcement are the expected deployments of two Army brigades from Fort Campbell in Kentucky. Those and additional training or support units are expected to be announced in a second wave of orders in the coming weeks.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was visiting Fort Campbell and Camp Lejeune on Monday to speak to troops expected to deploy as part of the new strategy.