February 10th, 2009
02:00 PM ET
9 years ago

Gates: Obama to decide on troop increase in 'days'

President Obama will likely make a decision soon on whether or not to add more troops in Afghanistan, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

President Obama will likely make a decision soon on whether or not to add more troops in Afghanistan, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama will likely make a decision on sending additional troops to Afghanistan "in the course of the next few days," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday.

"I think that there is a realization that some decisions have to be made ... before the strategic review is completed," Gates said at a news conference. "He has several options in front of him."

Gates, one of three Republicans appointed to Obama's Cabinet, said the administration will wait until a strategic review of military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq is complete to make decisions on "the strategies going forward."

"I worry a lot about the foreign military footprint in Afghanistan ... I think and I hope that the strategic review that is underway will sort of point a path forward in terms of what we think the right number, the right size of the foreign military presence in Afghanistan should be," Gates added.

On Sunday, two senior Pentagon officials told CNN that decisions about withdrawing troops from Iraq and sending more troops to Afghanistan have been delayed until the Pentagon provides Obama with more detail about the risks and implications of the issues confronting him.

Both officials, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, have a direct understanding of the discussion regarding troop withdrawals. They said the military is not concerned about the delays, but that there is concern about the deteriorating levels of security in Afghanistan.

It is believed that thousands of ground combat Marines, a marine aviation unit and Army special forces could be sent to southern Afghanistan in the weeks ahead. The officials also confirmed that the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command are now working on three Iraq combat troop withdrawal options for the
president: 16 months, 19 months and 23 months.

Given the current security situation in Iraq, the United States can likely reduce troop level from 14 brigades to 12 by the end of the year, the
officials said.

Also Tuesday, the defense secretary addressed a newly released Pentagon report showing Army suicides dramatically up this year. The Army reported that 24 soldiers are believed to have committed suicide in January alone - six times as many as killed themselves in January 2008, according to statistics released Thursday.

If all those prove true, more soldiers will have killed themselves than died in combat last month. According to Pentagon statistics, there were 16 U.S. combat deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq in January.

Gates told reporters that the military has put a lot of effort into helping troops and their families - and said the strain of long deployments is causing much of the stress.

"I think part of the problem in terms of the strains ... whether it's divorce rates or suicides, I would say ... these are manifestations also of repeated tours," Gates said. "It's not just the length of the tour, but the fact that so many have gone back for two or three, even four rotations in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think it's a combination of all those things."

Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. James Cartwright, also at the press conference, said the suicide and divorce rates would come down as the tours are reduced.

"That's another benchmark we've got to cross before we can expect to see some of these rates start to move in a positive vector. But I think the bigger issue here is the cumulative effect," he said. "We've got work to do ... we're watching this very closely."

- CNN's Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

Filed under: Afghanistan • President Obama • Robert Gates
soundoff (57 Responses)
  1. Harriette

    I voted for our new president but I am so glad he kept that republican man Gates on in the white house. This moving around the troops stuff is too much for a little boy from Illinois who never served in the military himself, yall.

    I wouldn't want to admit it to the republicans but there is some things they might know more about than the democrats and lets face it – war is one of them.

    February 10, 2009 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  2. thomas

    This may be the time to rethink strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The current strategy doesn't appear to be producing the results we need and U.S. troops have been there a long long time..

    February 10, 2009 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  3. Mike Dallas

    @ray ray

    Step away from the meth lab your day job is going to your head.

    We "peaceniks" and Obama have always said we should have been in Afghan, not in Iraq.

    We never expected Obama to pull troops from Afghanistan and he has always said he would move troops to Afghanistan.

    February 10, 2009 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  4. Marci - West Covina CA

    President Obama has already set up his excuse by repeatedly saying "I inherited these problems after 8 yrs of failed policies." Correct me if I am wrong, but didn't Clinton, Pelosi, Reid and Franks put through requirements that banks had to give out these very risky loans in order to continue to receive federal money? Wasn't it called the Community re-investment act? Didn't in 2003 the Bush administration try to put forth regulatory oversight because it was going to explode eventually? But Pelosi and the wacky pack claimed that the evil George Bush doesn't want poor people to own homes and blocked the regulation? Didn't Barney Franks scream that there is no problem with Fannie and Freddie? We are all doomed; it was a nice 232-year run! Where is my gun and my bible?

    February 10, 2009 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  5. TCP

    I am still lost! Ok and an executive review occurs justifying a need for a stronger/increased military presence in Afhganistan. So how does this help in the efforts to bring U.S. troops home? Or does that come after our troops are annhialated in the mountains of this war cursed country? Peace has its price I guess! More war!

    February 10, 2009 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  6. Independent, Illinois

    I cannot believe how many blind, non-thinking, non-listening sheeple there are in this country. Liberal lemmings.

    When you are so far to the left, even the conservative central will seem to be far right.

    That being said, the far right is not much better.

    How about this......Here is a stimulus package. Refund all taxpayers (that is people that paid taxes only, not every man, woman, and child in america) a $1 million dollar check. That would cost the government what.....$156 million or so. A lot less than $1.5 trillion.

    Mortgages would be paid, new cars would be bought, debts would be paid, other goods and services would be purchased......economic crisis over.

    February 10, 2009 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  7. Eunice

    Independent Illinois, you are the only one making sense in America today. Please Americans need to know that any stimulus than that does not include giving the money at least a million dollars per family is useless. Put the money back into the hand of the people not banks and the economy will be automatially restored. This is simple Economics commom sense which is not common anyway.

    February 10, 2009 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
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