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. Maggie

    I hope he does not talk it to death. I keep hoping with all those words coming out of his mouth I will finally hear something that makes sense. He talks a good speech but what does it mean?

    February 10, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  2. Griff

    So when I relate to a statement, one Black Person uses to promote another. Again I am either Bitter 9or a Racist.... You love to twist things to your own advantage CNN......

    February 10, 2009 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  3. shoegazer

    It doesn't matter how many troops are put in place in Afghanistan.If you take into consideration how one group of warlords will replace the deposed one,the circle will continue to spin,the situation will continue to be volatile and any resolution near impossible.

    February 10, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  4. Capt Smash, Salt Lake City, Utah

    Rushpublicant Talking Points summarized:

    Blah blah blah messiah...

    Blah blah blah tax cheat...

    Blah blah blah socialism...

    blah blah blah fear...

    blah blah blah marxist...

    blah blah blah failure...

    blah blah blah tax cuts...

    blah blah blah New Deal failure...

    blah blah blah Clinton...

    blah blah blah Carter...

    blah blah blah!

    February 10, 2009 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  5. Maggie

    I cannot imagine Obama adding troops. He may take away just so he looks good to the terriost and our enemy country. SDW on antoher issue stated Obama had done more in the short time he has been president that the previous pres in his time. What has he done except counter the good regarding abortion laws and the embrpynic stem cell research issue. All the other I ahve heard hs just been what he thinks to do but no action, only words.

    February 10, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  6. no corporate politics

    to Angi's Mom: "I vote to bring ALL the troops home." I agree and I did vote that way.

    Then you too must have voted for the Green Party or maybe the Libertarian Party.

    RNC = DNC = more WAR and AGRESSION!

    Obama policy from his speeches:
    Afghanistan – expand Bush invasion
    Israel – continue Bush policy
    Iran – continue Bush threats
    Iraq – bring some home – send others to Afghanistan

    Third party votes don't seem so wasted now do they?

    February 10, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  7. John

    Ray Ray
    You need to forget about the Democrats being peaceniks. Obama said he would do this during the campaign.

    Also, remember, It was the Democrats who beat the Germans and the Japanese at the same time and in less time than YOUR hero
    GWB has taken to find a 6 foot Saudi in a desert!

    BO, Go get Osama! and bring that sucker here to face trial and sentancing. Just like Clinton did to the guy who bombed the trade center the first time.

    February 10, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  8. Griff

    What part does the "Caspian Sea," play in this drama: CNN?

    February 10, 2009 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  9. The lonely Libertarian of Liverpool

    @Ted van Tol
    He( Our President) will bring peace to the middle east in the first year? There has not been peace in the middle east in the history of human kind! What is that 25 centuries?

    February 10, 2009 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  10. Hammer

    Lay down our arms and surrender.

    February 10, 2009 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  11. Beverly, NYC

    Boston Irish February 10th, 2009 4:54 pm ET: Who did you think was going to Afghanistan. Of course, if you or any other know it all armchair quarterback would like to volunteer in the search for Bin Laden, which by the way should have been done in 2001 by Mr. Bush. I'm sure the President will be greatful. I already served in the Marine Corps during the first gulfwar in case you were going to ask me to do the same.

    February 10, 2009 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    @ Ray Ray

    Thank you for providing yourself and your words as a shining example of what is wrong with the large, racist portion of our country. Obama is doing precisely what he said he would do. Afghanistan was where we should've been all along. We only ended up in Iraq because little neocon Bushy Jr. had a hardon for killing Saddam, securing some oil and attempting to ramp up a war economy to bolster his presidency... and he found a way to unabashedly use the 3,000 deaths on 9/11 as a political tool for doing so. There's a vast difference between spending that war chest on a righteous effort to get the people who did that to us and an unjustified war based on convenient fabrications.

    February 10, 2009 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    @ Ray Ray

    Thank you for providing yourself and your words as a shining example of what is wrong with the large, racist, uninformed portion of our country known as the GOP.

    February 10, 2009 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  14. Sniffit

    @ LIP

    No, because that's a mischaracterization.

    February 10, 2009 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  15. Matthew, Detroit

    It proves again how Barack is just a naive boy.

    Iraq had an election this year that went well.

    Barack was against the surge which worked.

    Now he came up with an original thought and wants a surge in Afghanistan.
    The war is going to break you Barack. You are not smart or tough enough to handle the job.

    February 10, 2009 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  16. William A. Schaedler from St. Louis

    That's right OBAMA. Spend more money on a useless conflict in Afghanistan. Keep building up the troops. At any cost. What do you think caused this economic strife in the first place? You have to marvel at OBAMA's intelligence.

    February 10, 2009 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  17. Griff

    To add to? Georgia would be the Bridge...

    February 10, 2009 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  18. Matthew, Detroit

    He looks so tough in his picture. ooooh so scary. That will back those bad guys down. Barack a clown. We will be comparing him to Jimmy Carter very shortly.

    February 10, 2009 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  19. Bill,ca

    the 3 republicans supporting Obamas strategy will be heros in 2010
    and the rest of them hopefully are gone.

    February 10, 2009 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  20. big papa

    I say close Gitmo...

    ...release the prisoners...

    ...arm them...

    ...and send them into RED STATES...

    ...America has a CONFEDERATE problem...

    ...and Afghanistan will be exponentially more difficult than Iraq...

    February 10, 2009 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  21. Fan of Common Sense

    Did any of you really believe him during the campaign when he said he was going to end "the war?" He just didn't bother to tell you that he was going to shift the soldiers and equipment over to the other war. SUCKERS!!

    February 10, 2009 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  22. S Callahan

    Best to put some soliders on reserve for the other side of the ocean....

    February 10, 2009 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  23. Rick Sutter

    Dems and Repubs will never agree on how this country should be run. I think Dems have a sinister plan. Dems think Repubs have a sinister plan. There you go.

    February 10, 2009 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  24. Just Shut Up!

    I thought Obama didn't believe in troop surges. ____ hypocrit.

    February 10, 2009 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  25. S Callahan

    Boy Ray you sure are in for a rude awakening cuase the real Messiah is on the way and he will certainly hold your tounge accountable.

    February 10, 2009 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
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