February 10th, 2009
02:00 PM ET
5 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. Ray Ray

    LOL – all you code-pink anti-war peaceniks!!

    He's going to ramp-up the military effort....basically shift the manpower from Iraq to Afghanistan. We'll still be killing ragheads and spending the money.

    Are you going to burn effigies of Obama now? (since you did the same of Bush)

    Nahh..didn't think so. You'll just STFU and praise your messiah regardless of what he does.

    February 10, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  2. LIP

    This is my serious face. Don't get me wrong, I do want to listen to the Republicans, but I will have to use this face while I am actually talking to them.
    It simply doesn't get any funnier when you start comparing photos of Obama during the election and after the election. Happy go lucky, uplifiting, wholesome and engaging and yes, elitist would describe him before the election. Angry, serious, in your face, no BS and critical of your views could describe him after.
    Hasn't anyone else noticed?

    February 10, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  3. Had It

    I have an idea – since we paid the Iraqis not to fight us, why don't we pay them to fight in Afghanistan?

    February 10, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  4. Sue

    We should not be expanding our forces there at all. Get out of the Middle East..we can't afford it, and they don't want us there. Democracy and the ME can't co-exist.

    February 10, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  5. Boston Irish

    Well, he said there would be a pull out of the troops in Iraq. And there will be!!! They will all be transferred to Afghanistan!!!!. Guess he kept this promise, but not very well. One death trap for another. Thanks a lot.

    February 10, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  6. no corporate politics

    And how many of you were under the delusion that Obama would bring all the troops home? Show of hands!

    The reality was that he said the word "Iraq" over and over to whip up emotions. You didn't vote on emotions did you?

    Afghanistan – expand Bush invasion
    Israel – continue Bush policy
    Iran – continue Bush threat
    Iraq – bring some home – send others to Afghanistan

    February 10, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  7. Robin

    I'm afraid that President Obama is going to find out talking the talk is different then walking the walk.

    February 10, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  8. M Jonah

    The Republicans are so confused and so bent on misrepresenting the economic strategy of the new administration so much so that:

    1) They are not even ashamed of trying to give numerous names to the economic strategy, eg "theft", "pork", "socialism", etc as well as the latest "Europeanization." Please Republicans and your few wealthy friends, be considerate enough and do not play politics with the lives of the citizens of America

    2) My advice is that work with the Democrats just like they have done with their few Republican counter parts who agreed to work with them. The democrats At Least Agreed to cut down on some of The So Called Pork in The S Plan. So why won't you also work on sacrificing on YOUR SO CALLED PROPOSALS. Is this what they call SHOWING LOVE AND CONCERN TO THE CITIZENS WHO VOTED THE REPUBLICANS IN?

    Please it is clear that the Republicans have some SINISTER agenda under their sleeves more than just coming up with a solution for the flawed American economy. AMERICANS WATCH THE SINISTER GAME PLAY OF THE REPUBLICANS VERY CAREFULLY AND MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE

    February 10, 2009 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  9. Scott, Tucson

    CHANGE ...changing the battleground from Iraq to Afghanistan. Code Pink and the other like minded people better dust off those anti-war signs, change the name from Bush to Obama and start marching again.

    February 10, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  10. Ken in Dallas

    Sadly, this is really more or less impossible to extricate ourselves from.

    If we pull out of Iraq now, the Persians will move in, the rest of the Arab world will object, forcefully, and the Middle East erupts in regional war.

    If we pull out of Afghanistan, the Taliban will be left with a free hand, and are likely to take Pakistan, leaving a nuclear weapons stockpile in the hands of the Taliban.

    Does everybody understand the definition of "quagmire" now?

    February 10, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  11. Ted van Tol

    Out of Iraq and fhinish Taliban and Al Qaida in Aghanistan and Pakistan.
    Barack told this long before he was President and he will
    keep his word.
    He is a inspiration for a lot of leaders like Putin and Livni.
    He will bring peace in the Midle East in his first term.
    Mark my words.
    Finaly the politics off war and dictating are over.

    Thank you, Barack Obama.

    February 10, 2009 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  12. David

    For those of you who refused to listen to President Obama during the campaign, this is exactly what he said he would do. I don't like it but it's the correct course of action. Remember the 9/11 terrorists were Saudi's trained in Afghanistan and not Iraqi's.

    I hope the troop levels are lower than they were for Iraq and we are not there as long going forward (although we've already been there longer). The country is a safe harbor for terrorists and that needs to be prevented. Note that part of the prevention effort is winning the hearts and minds of the population so they enforce it in the future and so that the job of recruiting new terrorists is harder than it is now.

    February 10, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  13. Louis

    The United States is repeating the historic pattern of all great empires throughout history that have failed–over-extending our military commitments around the world and destroying the economy through incompetence and waste. We've learned nothing.

    February 10, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  14. The lonely Libertarian of Liverpool

    We are NOT the world police force, we are being rope a doped like Ali in boxing, we will spend all of our energy chaseing this criminal gang.
    The only way to win in Afghanistan is to bring back the draft, and go inthere to win, but even Gangis Khan lost there.

    February 10, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  15. Dylan from MN

    I'm for world peace and know that we are getting close to attaining that through give and take diplomacy. I understand that groups like al-Qaeda have views more extreme than the Religious right, but fighting will just provoke more resentment. I'm sick of the delusion that we must fight wars, it's brought us no where, nothing good has ever come or ever will come from war. We will never eliminate the opponent for good but we can try to understand them better as they should understand us better. We are all connected and we're starting to realize this now, we must continue to fight the good fight to end all fighting.

    February 10, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  16. Justifed Cynic

    Ha! He told you he was going to end the wars and YOU ACTUALLY BELIEVED HIM! SUCKERS!!

    February 10, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  17. fred

    to "no corporate politics" : that just made me laugh. You are right on. People are so ignorant of foreign affairs these days. They think you can just talk your way out of people hating you.

    February 10, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  18. No Incumbents 2010

    Yet you cut any stimulus for defense? Outstanding Mr. President!

    February 10, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  19. Lesley

    With Petraeus leaking false information regarding Obama's intent for withdrawal in Iraq to advance his own personal agenda, it's business as usual all right. We need a new CentCom commander. And Obama has always said he intends to remove troops from Iraq but also to deploy a certain amount of troops to Afghan. There is nothing new in that. He's not changing his agenda at all. It depends on which media report you're reading.

    February 10, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  20. An American

    I thought he was going to "bring home" the troops. Oh I see, pull them out of Irac and send them somewhere else. What a brillant idea!! All this a big spending package too. What a guy

    February 10, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  21. a little sad

    Um, Afghanistan is the war we went to fight to get Bin Laden. Bush just didn't do the job. This was a war to protect the USA.

    Iraq was no threat to the USA. Bush just wanted to finish what he thought his father should have. Bush abandoned the war that was to protect the USA in favor of a war to try to burnish his legacy.

    Another small miscalculation on Bush's part.

    February 10, 2009 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  22. bsmith171

    what would he or draft doders GATES or BIDEN know about the military?

    February 10, 2009 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  23. Frank

    so he is thinking about it?
    I thought he already knew what he was going to do on DAY ONE! remember 16months yeah right
    he doesn't have a clue...the job is too big for him
    he is arrogant...and still in campaign mode..the only thing he likes to do
    what an embarrastment of a president!!!!!!

    February 10, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  24. Rob

    M Jonah February 10th, 2009 5:01 pm ET – Do you have Barry White or maybe some Marvin Gaye playing in the background when you think about Obama? Were you seated in front of your tv, getting all tingly last night?

    You are a lemming! And soon you and your other lemmings will all go over the cliff.

    February 10, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  25. Angi's mom

    I vote to bring ALL the troops home. Enough is enough.

    February 10, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
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