Gates Says More Afghan Troop Commitments Await Strategic Review
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said a request by the U.S. commander in Afghanistan for additional forces beyond the ones approved by President Barack Obama will be held "in abeyance" until the new administration completes a strategy review, Bloomberg reported.
Gates also said no decision has been made on how long the 17,000 new troops being sent under Obama's order will remain. Army General David McKiernan said earlier today that they will need to stay for at least three years.
The secretary said the new troops being sent will allow the U.S.-led coalition to increase its military presence in the Taliban-infested south. "These additional numbers give us a better chance to provide the kind of security for the population that is necessary for economic development and for governance to take hold," Gates said.
He made his comments to reporters shortly after McKiernan, who also commands NATO forces in Afghanistan, spoke at a Pentagon news briefing. Gates spoke as he prepared to leave Washington for a NATO meeting in Poland.
McKiernan said Obama's decision yesterday approving the 17,000 additional forces may allow him to break what he called "a stalemate at best" between the U.S.-led coalition and Taliban insurgents in southern Afghanistan. McKiernan had requested 30,000 more soldiers.