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Gates: Commanders Will Get Troops They Need

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 26, 2007 – While U.S. commanders in Iraq do not have a “blank check” to request additional troops, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said today he will consider all their recommendations and ensure they have the forces they need to accomplish their mission.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Defense Robert M. Gates conducts his first roundtable meeting with the Pentagon press corps, Jan. 26. Photo by Helene C. Stikkel
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Speaking at his first Pentagon roundtable with reporters since taking office, Gates said he has asked commanders what troop levels they need. He added that those recommendations will go through a thorough vetting process before being approved.

“I would say what we have done, I hope, is create an environment in which the commanders feel open to requesting what they think they need, and then we will evaluate it here in the department to see what’s available and how much of that request we can satisfy,” Gates said.

Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, who was confirmed today by the Senate to lead Multinational Force Iraq, has indicated the additional troops allocated for Iraq will be sufficient to accomplish the mission, Gates said. The Defense Department is evaluating whether the deployment of some or all of the five brigades President Bush has pledged to Iraq can be accelerated, he said.

Gates warned that anything that would undermine support of the U.S. mission in Iraq, such as Congressional resolutions opposing troop increases in Iraq, would embolden terrorists. “I think it’s hard to measure that with any precision, but it seems pretty straightforward that any indication of flagging will in the United States gives encouragement to (terrorists),” he said. “And I’m sure that that’s not the intent behind the resolutions, but I think it may be the effect.”

As the additional troops are sent to Iraq and the new Iraq strategy is implemented, it is possible there will be a rise in U.S. casualties, Gates said. Another possibility is that terrorists will go into hiding and try to wait out the surge, he added.

“The key here is the fact that the Iraqi military are going to be in the lead on this, and we are going to be in a support role,” he said. “It would be my expectation that the Iraqi military would be there for a very long period of time, and once we got the level of violence down to a certain point that it would be entirely manageable by the Iraqi army, that would be there for a protracted period of time.”

In his confirmation hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee Jan. 23, Petraeus said that the entire U.S. government needs to mobilize and contribute to the Iraq effort. Today Gates agreed, but said that no decisions will be made until Petraeus arrives in Iraq and evaluates the situation.

“It’s an issue that I’ve felt strongly about from the beginning -- that the reconstruction and economic development part of this strategy of clear, hold and build, is critically important to its long-term success,” Gates said. “We will wait until General Petraeus arrives on the scene and get his estimation of what he needs.”

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Biographies:
Robert M. Gates

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