Gates may get Afghanistan troop request

Sept. 23, 2009 at 3:11 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 (UPI) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates should receive a troop request for Afghanistan by the end of the week, a Pentagon spokesman said Wednesday.

In an assessment of the situation in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO troop commander, indicated more troops were needed or else the eight-year conflict would fail.

"I expect by week's end that the secretary will have received General McChrystal's resource request," Defense Department spokesman Geoff Morrell said during a briefing.

But once Gates receives the request, "he intends to hold onto it until such time as the president and his national security team are ready to consider it," Morrell said. "It is simply premature to consider additional resources until General McChrystal's assessment has been fully reviewed and discussed by the president and his team."

While the review process has been under way for several weeks, Morrell said, "there is certainly more work to do, more discussions to be had and so, while that is going on, the troop request will reside with Secretary Gates."

Gates received the assessment Aug. 31 and President Barack Obama received his copy a week later, Morrell said. McChrystal's report also calls for refocusing the strategy to one of helping the Afghan people rather than killing militants.

"In the two weeks since, the president, the secretary and the chairman have had discussions about the assessment, about the situation in Afghanistan, and the entire national security team has met to discuss it," the spokesman said.

Once Obama returns to Washington from attending the U.N. General Assembly and hosting the Group of 20 economic summit in Pittsburgh, Morrell said, "the discussions will resume in earnest, and I am confident that there is a commitment on everyone's part to work this complex issue as quickly as possible, but without rushing it."

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