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Bush Meets With Defense Leaders in Pentagon

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 23, 2008 – President Bush met with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today at the Pentagon.

Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and Josh Bolton, White House chief of staff, met with defense leaders in “the tank” -- a secure conference room in the Pentagon.

“This is another in a series of meetings that the commander in chief conducts with his military advisors every quarter or so,” Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said during a news conference.

The specifics of the meeting are classified, Morrell said, but he gave reporters a rough outline of the topics covered.

“These meetings provide the president and his military team the opportunity to discuss at length how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are progressing, what other security threats may be emerging around the world, and how our brave troops and their families are holding up under the strain of repeated and lengthy deployments,” he said.

The national security team undoubtedly would discuss the recently ended surge and what that has meant for Iraq and the region, Morrell said. “Security has improved so much in Iraq over the past year [that] the five additional brigade combat teams have now left the country, and yet violence remains at an all-time low,” he said.

The need for more troops in Afghanistan also would be high on the agenda, Morrell said. “I can tell you that there's been no secret made of the fact that commanders in Afghanistan have made it perfectly clear to the leadership here in the Pentagon that they need more forces sooner than later,” he said.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff will discuss with the president “whether or not they can meet the needs of the commanders any time soon,” he added.

Commanders in Afghanistan need three more brigade combat teams, Morrell said. “The secretary … helped the president craft a statement which made it clear that this country is committed to providing additional forces -- an unknown but not insignificant number -- to Afghanistan next year,” he said.

Bush meets on a daily basis with members of his national security team. The last full discussion the president held in the Pentagon was March 28.

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