The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff addressed hundreds of Camp Lejeune Marines who will soon head off to war. A total of 8,000 got their marching orders today, part of President Obama's plan to send 30,000 troops to Afghanistan over the next six months. “Well it's about time. I've been waiting for it for a long time, finally getting to use what i was trained for,” said Sgt. Derrick McPherson. Admiral Mike Mullen spoke to hundreds of Camp Lejeune Marines who will soon head off to war in Afghanistan. For some of the marines, it will be their first deployment ever. For most, it will be their first trip to Afghanistan. “I expect to kind of hit the ground running,” said Sgt. Nixon Jean. Mullen said the key to success will be understanding the Afghan culture and minimizing civilian casualties. “We could have an operation that was a great success tactically, but we kill one or two civilians, or more than that and it's a strategic failure.” The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke about leadership as the United States changes it's focus from Iraq to Afghanistan, but the main topic of discussion was a timeline for withdrawal in July 2011. “There was a lot of confusion amongst Marines as to what that date actually meant,” Sgt. Jean said. “Whether it means all American forces were going to be home or that they're going to start sending people home by then.” Mullen said, “The focus there is to get Afghan security forces into a point to start to transition. There's no deadline, there's no end date, there's no exit strategy associated with that other than we know in the long run that success is and the strategy is to turn their own security over to them.” “Who knows, maybe we'll get there and everything will just fall into place,” said Sgt. McPherson. About 8,000 troops from Camp Lejeune received their deployment orders to Afghanistan. The first 1,500 will leave before Christmas. When asked if he thought 30,000 troops would make a difference in Afghanistan, admiral Mullen responded, "Honestly, I do.” To help support President Obama's increase of U.S. troops, NATO has agreed to send 7,000 additional forces to Afghanistan. Mullen says troops need to turn around the war effort in the next 18 to 24 months to be successful. Congressman Mike McIntyre says the President's plan for Afghanistan has a lot of support on Capitol Hill, and he told WWAY it probably the best way to handle the situation. "To make sure we get the show of strength that we need so our troops can get their job done and so that we can reach the goal of stability in Afghanistan and making sure the Taliban is brought under control so that Al-Qaeda doesn't get the stronghold that they've had, that that can be removed and weakened and that we can be in a better situation, then, for our own security here at home."
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