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Defense Department to Review Afghanistan Operations, Strategy

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 24, 2008 – The Defense Department is examining its operations and strategy in Afghanistan as part of a broader U.S. governmental review, a senior Pentagon spokesman told reporters today.

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Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell answers questions from news reporters during a press briefing at the Pentagon, Sept. 24, 2008. DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Molly A. Burgess

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

The completed Pentagon report and reviews by other U.S. agencies will be presented to the White House’s National Security Council, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said.

“Various departments within this government have been tasked to take a look at our Afghan strategy and are in the midst of doing that,” Morrell said.

The Defense Department’s policy shop and the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are working on ideas to present to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Morrell said. The secretary, he said, will be briefed regularly on the report’s progress.

The Pentagon likely will examine things like Afghanistan force levels, civilian support, tactics and strategy, Morrell said.

The Defense Department’s work on the report began just within the past few days, Morrell said. “There is still much work to be done,” he said.

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the former commander of Multinational Forces Iraq, is conducting a separate review of operations in Afghanistan, Morrell said. Petraeus takes responsibility for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq when he becomes U.S. Central Command’s chief in late October.

The review is being conducted on a priority basis, Morrell said.

“We are running out of time in this administration, and so I expect, probably you’ll see products sooner than later,” he said.

In other Afghanistan-related issues, Morrell refuted unofficial reports out of Pakistan that claim U.S. helicopters had been fired on by Pakistani forces and that a U.S. military drone aircraft was downed in Pakistan.

“As far as we know, no American helicopters have been fired on by Pakistani forces,” he said. “And, as far as we know, none of our unmanned aerial vehicles has been downed by Pakistani forces.”

However, an American Predator UAV was reported through U.S. military channels as having crashed in Afghanistan in the last week or so, Morrell said. The aircraft crashed because of mechanical problems and “certainly wasn’t shot down,” he said.

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Robert M. Gates
Geoff Morrell

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