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Marines to Lead Obama's Afghanistan Surge

Updated at 7:43 a.m. Eastern.

New infusions of U.S. Marines will begin moving into Afghanistan almost as soon as President Obama announces a redrawn battle strategy, a plan widely expected to include more than 30,000 additional U.S. forces.

Mr. Obama will try to sell a skeptical public on his bigger, costlier war plan Tuesday by coupling the large new troop infusion with an emphasis on stepped-up training for Afghan forces that he says will allow the U.S. to leave. Special Report: Afghanistan

Mr. Obama formally ends a 92-day review of the war in Afghanistan Tuesday night with a nationally broadcast address in which he will lay out his revamped strategy from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. He began rolling out his decision Sunday night, informing key administration officials, military advisers and foreign allies in a series of private meetings and phone calls that stretched into Monday.

Military officials said at least one group of Marines is expected to deploy within two or three weeks of Mr. Obama's announcement, and would be in Afghanistan by Christmas. Larger deployments wouldn't be able to follow until early in 2010.

The initial infusion is a recognition by the administration that something tangible needs to happen quickly, officials said. The quick addition of Marines would provide badly needed reinforcements to those fighting against Taliban gains in the southern Helmand province, and could lend reassurance to both Afghans and a war-weary U.S. public.

Speaking to "Early Show" co-anchor Harry Smith Tuesday morning, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs defended the months-long process of deliberation Mr. Obama took to make his final decision.

"Everybody involved really worked hard with the President to make this policy better than it would have been had we announced it after only a week," said Gibbs.

Thirty thousand more troops would be 10,000 fewer than Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander in Afghanistan, requested, reports CBS News correspondent David Martin. The president hopes to make up at least some of the difference with contributions from NATO allies.

"This is going to be an international effort," Gibbs told "the Early Show". "This is not one country, or one region of the world's problem."

"I think NATO will come through with a couple thousand and so I think we'll still be somewhat short of what Gen. McChrystal proposed," Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution told CBS News.

Martin reports that the commandant of the Marine Corps has said his troops will among be the first in - about 9,000 into the Taliban heartland in Southern Afghanistan. It was not immediately clear whether that contingent of 9,000 would be deployed by the end of 2009, or would be staggered.

Aides to McChrystal say the rest of the buildup will consist of two combat brigades from the Army plus trainers for Afghan forces and support troops to construct all the new facilities that will be needed.

It will take upwards of a year to get them all there, but when the buildup is complete, the United States will have nearly 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, concentrated in the South and East of the country where the insurgency is the strongest. The North and West will have to wait for NATO to send more troops.

"My best guess is the North and West of the country continue to fester a little bit more than we would like," O'Hanlon said.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in remarks Monday to business executives in New York, stressed that the administration's strategy is to go after not just the al Qaeda terror network but also the Taliban militants allied with it in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"As long as Afghanistan and Pakistan struggle to control their borders and extend their sovereignty to all their territory, the door is open to bad actors, and the result can be an environment in which terrorist groups thrive," she said.

The war escalation includes sending 30,000 to 35,000 more American forces into Afghanistan in a graduated deployment over the next year, on top of the 71,000 already there. Mr. Obama's announcement is the culmination of more than three months of debate over whether and how to expand U.S. military involvement in a war that has turned worse this year despite Obama's previous infusion of 21,000 forces.

Mr. Obama also will deliver a deeper explanation of why the U.S. must continue to fight more than eight years after the war's start, emphasizing that Afghan security forces need more time, more schooling and more U.S. combat backup to be up to the job on their own. He will make tougher demands on the governments of Pakistan and, especially, Afghanistan, and will provide a fresh path toward disengagement.

"This can't be nation-building," Gibbs told Smith. "It can't be an open-ended forever commitment, and I think that's what the president will outline."

With U.S. casualties in Afghanistan sharply increasing and little sign of progress, the war Mr. Obama once liked to call one "of necessity," not choice, has grown less popular with the public and within his own Democratic party. In recent days, leading Democrats have talked of setting tough conditions on deeper U.S. involvement, or even staging outright opposition.

The displeasure on both sides of the aisle was likely to be on display when congressional hearings on Mr. Obama's strategy get under way later in the week on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Obama was spending much of Monday and Tuesday on the phone, outlining his plan - minus many specifics - for the leaders of France, Britain, Germany, Russia, China, India, Denmark, Poland and others. He also met in person at the White House with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

A briefing for dozens of key lawmakers was planned for Tuesday afternoon, just before Mr. Obama was set to leave the White House for the speech against a military backdrop at West Point.

The Afghan government said Tuesday that President Hamid Karzai and Mr. Obama had an hourlong video conference. Mr. Obama was also going to speak with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

In Afghanistan, rampant government corruption and inefficiency have made U.S. success much harder. Mr. Obama was expected to place tough conditions on Karzai's government, along with endorsing a stepped-up training program for the Afghan armed forces along the outline recommended this fall by U.S. trainers.

That schedule would expand the Afghan army to 134,000 troops by next fall, three years earlier than once envisioned.

Military officials said the speech is expected to include several references to Iraq, where the United States still has more than 100,000 forces. The strain of maintaining that overseas war machine has stretched the Army and Marine Corps and limited Mr. Obama's options.

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