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Mullen: Afghanistan debate is over, it's time to move out

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, said Thursday that the Pentagon is ready to start the surge. The first troops will arrive in Afghanistan next week.

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Defense Secretary Robert Gates, left, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 2, 2009.

Gerald Herbert/AP

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The nation's top military officer said the debate on Afghanistan is now over and the time has come to execute President Obama's mission to "reverse the momentum" of the Taliban insurgency.

In short, its time to move out, said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the Pentagon Thursday.

By next week, a Marine battalion will have landed in Helmand Province in Afghanistan, the first of the 30,000 surge troops announced last month.

Engineers are expanding airfields, contractors are constructing new buildings, and winter supplies are being shipped in. "We're all on the balls of our feet, leaning forward," Mullen said.

Mullen noted the logistics challenges of surging forces and materiel into a landlocked country with nascent infrastructure. But he said he expects to have "the bulk" of the troops to the war zone by summer with the remaining units arriving by fall.

"No one is underestimating the scope of the challenge here," he added.

Gen. Stanely McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, and his civilian counterpart, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, finished a series of back-to-back hearings on Capitol Hill to explain Mr. Obama's new strategy. Congress has been at once skeptical and supportive, essentially resigned to Obama's new strategy even if they are concerned about some aspects of it.

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