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ARLINGTON, Va. — The 82nd Airborne Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade is headed to Afghanistan in spring as part of efforts to reinforce U.S. and NATO troops there, said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.

The approximately 2,800 soldiers in the unit fill part of a request by the top commander in Afghanistan for four brigade combat teams’ worth of troops plus a combat aviation brigade, Whitman said Monday.

The first of those four units — the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division — is expected to arrive next month in Afghanistan.

The second and third brigade combat teams’ worth of troops could be in Afghanistan in 2009, and the fourth unit may arrive in 2010, Stars and Stripes has learned.

The security situation in Afghanistan deteriorated dramatically in 2008, prompting Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to tell lawmakers in September that he was not convinced the coalition was winning there.

Recently, Mullen told reporters that between 20,000 and 30,000 extra U.S. troops could be headed to Afghanistan.

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