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Gates Video Highlights Top 2009 Accomplishments

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2010 – Most people would be hard-pressed to squeeze the highlights of their past year – and what they hope to accomplish in the year ahead -- into 50 seconds.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates took a crack at it in a new White House video, ticking off the Defense Department’s most significant milestones since January 2009.

The secretary focused on three top efforts: the war effort in Afghanistan, the drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq, and submission of a defense budget that supports major reforms while increasing military capabilities and taking care of troops and their families.

Operations in Afghanistan topped Gates’ list. He noted President Barack Obama’s new Afghanistan strategy, announced in early December, that includes 30,000 additional troops, in addition to the 17,000 ordered to Afghanistan earlier in the year.

Obama’s strategy calls for beginning to transfer security responsibility to the Afghan forces, and beginning the process of drawing down U.S. troops in July 2011, based on conditions on the ground.

These additional forces, Gates noted in the video, are aimed at rolling back the Taliban and preventing al-Qaida from destabilizing Pakistan and attacking the United States.

Gates also noted continuation of a responsible drawdown in Iraq, with even steeper reductions expected this year.

Obama announced in February his decision to redeploy all U.S. combat troops out of Iraq by the end of August of this year. Between 35,000 and 50,000 Americans are expected to remain in Iraq to train and mentor the Iraqi forces or track down extremist groups in conjunction with Iraqi forces.

Gates cited the fiscal 2010 defense budget request – “a reform defense budget focused on the military capabilities we truly need” – as another 2009 Defense Department milestone. While eliminating underperforming or unnecessary programs and concentrating on pressing warfighter requirements and what’s needed to fight future conflicts, the budget also ensures “our troops and their families get the support they deserve,” Gates said.

Gates closed his video with the reminder, “America remains a nation at war.” He urged the American public to “keep our brave men and women in uniform uppermost in your thoughts during this coming year.”

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