WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The Pentagon has said it expects about 18,000 of the 30,000 additional U.S. troops authorized by President Barack Obama to arrive in Afghanistan by late spring, a slower pace than initially announced by the White House.
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a congressional committee that the Taliban has moved well beyond southern strongholds and now has a growing influence in most of Afghanistan's provinces.
Mullen said, however, that there are signs of a turnaround as more troops arrive.
"It's better than it's ever been and we're just a few months into it," Mullen said. ""Right now, the Taliban believe they're winning. Eighteen months from now, if we've executed our strategy, we'll know that they won't... that they can't," Mullen added.
"We have already moved nearly 4,500 troops to Afghanistan and expect that about 18,000 of the president's December 1st commitment will be there by late spring," Mullen said of Obama's decision to deploy 30,000 additional U.S. troops on top of the nearly 70,000 already there.
The remainder of the 30,000 additional troops will arrive "as rapidly as possible over the summer and early fall, making a major contribution to reversing Taliban momentum in 2010," Mullen said, according to prepared remarks.
White House officials initially said the 30,000 troops should arrive in Afghanistan by the end of June.