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Bush, Cheney Consult Senior Uniformed Leaders on Way Forward in Iraq

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2008 – President Bush, Vice President Richard B. Cheney and Stephen Hadley, the national security advisor, today met Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon to discuss the way ahead in Iraq.

The meeting was an opportunity for the senior uniformed officials to give their advice to the president directly. The men met for two hours in “the Tank” -- a secure Joint Chiefs conference facility in the Pentagon.

The purpose of the meeting was for the chiefs to “have this time with the president to talk to him about their views, their recommendations, their observations on Iraq,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. “We want to make sure the president has the opportunity to talk to all the important key leaders that are involved in ensuring the success of the war effort.”

The president met earlier this week with U.S. Central Command Chief Navy Adm. William J. Fallon and met via videoteleconference with Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander of Multinational Force Iraq.

“At the end of the day, the commander in chief will have a good idea of what his key military leaders feel right now,” Whitman said.

Gates will continue to consult with Bush and other members of the National Security Council on these issues. Gates and Bush meet often, Whitman said, and the secretary “had some discussions in recent days about the situation in Iraq, but he also has multiple opportunities (to further those discussions) during his engagements with the president.”

The discussions center around the strategy for the way forward. The big question is the size of U.S. troop levels in Iraq through the end of the year, Joint Staff officials said. Gates has said he favors a pause of some duration after the last of the five U.S. surge brigades leave the country by the end of July.

Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker will testify before the House and Senate armed services committees during the second week in April. The president is expected to announce his decision on the way forward sometime that week.

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