U.S. soldiers return fire upon a sudden attack by Taliban on Combat Outpost Badel in eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistan border, Dec. 25. Rafiq Maqboold/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Rafiq Maqboold/AP

Defense Secretary Robert Gates (left) and Afghan President Hamid Karzai this month in Kabul. Musadeq Sadeq/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Musadeq Sadeq/AP

Defense Secretary Robert Gates speaks during a  news conference in Kabul on Wednesday. Gates visited Afghanistan to assess progress in the war. Musadeq Sadeq/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Musadeq Sadeq/AP

Service members handcuffed themselves to the White House fence during an April protest for gay rights. The potential repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring openly gay troops from serving raises practical questions about housing and fairness for the Pentagon. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

U.S. Army paratroopers patrol a busy market street in downtown Herat in northwest Afghanistan in June. In the past year, insurgent attacks and crime have spiked in this part of the country, which previously had been relatively calm. It's believed that U.S.-led operations in neighboring provinces are driving insurgents north, to Herat. Chris Hondros/Getty Images AsiaPac hide caption

itoggle caption Chris Hondros/Getty Images AsiaPac

Trucks wait to cross the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan near Spin Boldak in Afghanistan's Kandahar province. The U.S. military is trying to prevent Taliban militants from fleeing to Pakistan to regroup. Rachel Martin/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Rachel Martin/NPR