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Updated: September 18, 2009 08:59 IST

Gates calls for patience on Afghan troop decision

PTI
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U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates meets reporters at the Pentagon, on Thursday.
AP U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates meets reporters at the Pentagon, on Thursday.

As the Obama administration is in the process of making a series of strategic decisions with regard to Afghanistan, U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates has underlined the need for patience in deciding over sending additional troops to the country.

“There’s been a lot of talk this week and the last two or three weeks about Afghanistan. And frankly from my standpoint, everybody ought to take a deep breath,” Mr. Gates said at a Pentagon news conference.

It was on March 27 this year that Mr. Obama announced his AfPak strategy. When he announced his other decisions on Afghanistan and our strategy, he made very clear that after the elections in Afghanistan, the U.S. would reassess the situation and whether the strategy decisions that he made, at that time, continue to fit the new situation.

“I believe that the President deserves the right to absorb the assessment himself and have his questions and my questions and others’ questions relating to the assessment answered before it’s delivered,” he said.

“We need to understand that the decisions that the President faces are perhaps some of the most — on Afghanistan — are some of the most important he may face, in his Presidency, about how we go forward there,” he said.

Noting that the decision process should not be rushed, Mr. Gates said: “If there are urgent needs, I have just authorised in the last 10 days or so, within the troop levels the President has approved, sending another 2,500 to 3,000 critical enablers that General McChrystal has asked for.”

Mr. Gates said: “I am prepared to ask for the flexibility to send more enablers, if we need to, before the President makes a decision on whether or not to send significant additional combat troops.”

Asserting that it is important to make sure the strategy is right before the administration starts talking the resource issue, Mr. Gates said: “Frankly, some of the questions we are asking are outside of General McChrystal’s area of authority. They have to do with the political situation, they have to do with focus and so on.”

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