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DoD News Briefing with Geoff Morrell from the Pentagon

Presenter: Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell
July 23, 2008
                MR. MORRELL: Good afternoon. 
 
                It's good to be with you on this, the 60th anniversary of the integration of the armed forces, which Secretary Gates and Chairman Mullen celebrated this morning up on Capitol Hill. 
 
                I have a few additional scheduling matters to advise you of, and then I'll be happy to take your questions. 
 
                First of all, as many of you heard by now, President Bush is visiting the Pentagon this afternoon. In fact, I think he's due to arrive here about an hour from now. He will be joining Secretary Gates and the Joint Chiefs in "The Tank" for a -- about a 90-minute meeting. This is another in a series of meetings the commander in chief conducts with his senior military advisers roughly every quarter or so. 
 
                Without getting into the specific agenda, I can tell you that these meetings provide the president and his military team an 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 -- although I would remind you that, beginning next week in fact, no unit deploying to the Central Command region will serve longer than 12 months in theater, and then get a minimum of 12 months at home before their next deployment. That is a direct dividend from the surge and the counterinsurgency strategy it allowed for. Security has improved so much in Iraq over the past year the five additional combat brigades have now left the country, and yet violence remains at an all-time low. 
 
                After the "Tank" session, Secretary Gates will meet with Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia's minister of Defense and the architect of another successful counterinsurgency strategy. You may have noticed they co-authored an op-ed in today's New York Times about how our close security ties are helping Colombia defeat the FARC and other terrorists in its midst. But they argue that closer economic ties are needed to ensure victory there, and to that end they urge Congress to pass the Colombian free trade agreement as soon as possible. 
 
                And finally, Secretary Gates travels to San Antonio on Thursday to observe basic training at Lackland Air Force Base and visit with wounded warriors, especially burn victims, at Brooke Army Medical Center. 
 
                On Friday in Dallas, he will visit a VA hospital and then address the Military Child Education Coalition before returning home later that evening. 
 
                And with that, we'll take some questions. Lita. 
 
                Q     Geoff, just to follow up on some of your introductory remarks, considering the ongoing progress that you mentioned in Iraq, is it -- would it be safe to conclude that in "The Tank" today the president is likely to hear a lot about the needs for more troops in Afghanistan? And can you tell us if there's been any progress made in identifying perhaps either some units or smaller units, even, to go to Afghanistan to meet some of those needs, as the secretary said last week, sooner rather than later? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Well, I'm reluctant to tell you what's safe to say or not to say about what's going to happen in "The Tank" an hour from now. 
 
                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. That message has been sent loud and clear. 
 
                I can also tell you that the Chiefs, as is their job, are working to determine whether or not they can meet the needs of the commanders any time soon. 
 
                I can tell you that the secretary -- that his statement that he shared with you last week, that he wishes to provide additional forces to Afghanistan sooner rather than later, is still operative. As to what that "sooner" means, I think if it were possible to do this year, we would certainly look to doing it this year. But those are among the things that are being discussed right now: what is possible, what additional forces can be provided and how soon can they be provided. 
 
                Q     Is there some suggestion that it -- coming from anyone yet that they have found that it is not going to be possible, do you think? Has any door been closed? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I'm really, Lita, reluctant to get into the machinations of these internal discussions. I can just tell you in the broad sense that a need has been identified by the commanders, that the leadership here is sensitive to that need and working to see if it can be met sooner rather than later. 
 
                Yeah, Julian. 
 
                Q     If a brigade was to be a turn -- that was heading toward Iraq in the fall and then turned toward Afghanistan, how long would it take to retrain that? Obviously, it's been -- those brigades have been training up for a very specific mission within Iraq and if they were rerouted to Afghanistan, they would have a different mission. How long would it take to train them? And then I'll follow up after. 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Well, this is another one I'm going to -- this is a hypothetical and I'm reluctant to get into -- I think there's some historical precedents which you could -- which I could direct you to or we could direct you to, of units that were destined for Iraq which were diverted to Afghanistan. And you could go back and look at how long it took them to retrain for their change of mission. 
 
                But I think we're getting ahead of ourselves here by talking about the diversion of units from Iraq to Afghanistan at this point. 
 
                Q     Let me follow up, then. Is there -- there is a need for additional forces in Afghanistan. The commanders there have made it clear. From this building's perspective, from the secretary's perspective, is this something before the next fighting season next year or is this something that you want to meet that need before the sort of -- at the end of this year's fighting season? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I think we're talking about a couple things here.  
 
                The commanders have identified a need of three additional combat brigades. I think everybody in a position of power in this building has spoken about that at length publicly. That is what the commanders wish for. The secretary, working with the president in Bucharest, 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. 
 
                I think it is clear that there is bipartisan support for providing additional forces to Afghanistan -- you've heard it from the Democratic presumptive nominee; you've heard it from the Republican presumptive nominee -- so it looks as though this government is going to work to provide additional forces for Afghanistan next year. 
 
                How many? Whether it's the three additional brigades that the commanders want I think is a question, frankly, for the next administration. I think in the near term, there is an effort being made to figure out what can be done before that. Are there additional quantities of forces or capabilities that can be provided that would help the troops on the ground there now be more successful in their mission? 
 
                And I just want to make one additional point on this. I think we all are -- I think we're all getting a little bit -- overwriting, perhaps, some of this stuff, which is that the sky is falling Afghanistan. I don't think that the secretary believes that is the case. I think he believes that there are -- it is a mixed picture in Afghanistan; that we are seeing some areas clearly where there has been an increase of violence -- most notably in RC East, where we have seen, because of a lack of pressure on the Pakistan side of the border, an increase in the flow of foreign fighters from Pakistan into Afghanistan, and that is causing real problems for our troops there. 
 
                I'll come to you, Barb. 
 
                But I think you can point to other areas in Afghanistan where there has clearly been progress. The Marines have made real headway against the Taliban in RC South. 
 
                Additionally, we've seen consistent progression in the size and the capability of the Afghan national security forces.   
 
                So -- additionally, and I think this may be the key component, is the secretary has heard from commanders on the ground who tell him that the enemy actions that we are seeing in various parts of Afghanistan are disconnected from one another, so there is no sort of cohesive enemy offensive that is threatening the Afghan government. But there clearly are pockets of problems, real problems that need to be dealt with, and more forces are necessary to do that. 
 
                Yeah. I told Barbara I'd come to her. 
 
                Q     Everything you said -- I just want to go back over a couple points, because clearly, the top commanders in Afghanistan, separate from the issue of any overriding, General McKiernan, General Schlosser, General Milley are all publicly, as you acknowledge, saying that they need more troops, sooner rather than later. You just indicated that basically it would be left, in your words, to the next administration, I believe you said, about a large, significant -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: The lead is 3BCT, according to their -- what they wish for. 
 
                Q     Here is my question. What does it say? What does it say about the priorities that this administration and the secretary and the -- when you have your military commanders saying they need help now, you're saying realistically the next administration. You've said the chiefs are working to determine whether they can meet the needs of the commanders anytime soon. So, what does it say about the priority that the secretary, the president and everyone puts on Afghanistan when you say next administration, see if you can do it anytime soon, and yet your commanders in the theater are saying, we need help now? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Barbara, we're fighting two wars at once, three wars at once. We're fighting the global war on terror, we're fighting a war in Iraq, and we're fighting a war in Afghanistan. There are multiple demands on our forces. That's the reality of life at this point. The focus of our efforts clearly has been in Iraq, the battleground which Osama bin Laden identified as the central front in their war against us, the place in which they sought to set up a foothold for their caliphate that would reach into Europe.   
 
                That has been the focus of the terrorist efforts. There that -- therefore, it has been the focus of our efforts.   
 
                And we over the past year have made remarkable strides there, such that we've been able to take out five BCTs, and we can now have a discussion based upon the fact we've drawn those forces down, we've made -- we can now have a discussion about greater dwell time at home, shorter deployments, which we've made a decision on. We can now have a discussion about does that free up forces to provide to other theaters of operation. 
 
                Q     (Off mike) --  
 
                MR. MORRELL: And now we are in a period, Barbara, of assessment, a consolidation of evaluation by General Petraeus, in which he will make a recommendation to the secretary and the president about is it possible, given the remarkable security gains we've had in Iraq, to divert additional forces from Iraq into Afghanistan? That is going to be the fundamental issue before the military leaders, the civilian leaders in this building in the coming months. 
 
                Q     My question, however, is, understanding all of that, nonetheless, you have troops fighting out there, and their commanders right now telling you they don't have enough to do the job. What does that say about the priority of Afghanistan -- not Iraq; I'm asking about Afghanistan. Is the secretary rethinking putting -- (inaudible) -- priority --  
 
                MR. MORRELL: Barbara, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs has said time and time again Iraq is a mission we must do; Afghanistan is a mission we do as we can. Okay? I don't believe that has changed.  
 
                But as the situation in Iraq continues to improve, we may have the flexibility, the resources to change that paradigm, so that we can do much more than we are doing currently in Afghanistan.   
 
                That does not mean that we do not -- that Afghanistan is not a mission of vital importance to us. And we've got nearly 40,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Every single significant terrorist attack that has been launched or plotted against the U.S. and Europe since 9/11 has been hatched from the Afghan-Pakistan border. 
 
                We all are acutely aware of how important that mission is. But this is about choices, given the fact we have limited resources to work with.   
 
                And right -- and over the past several years, the focus has been predominantly on Iraq. We are now moving into an area, a time frame in which we can now -- we now have the luxury, the ability to consider plussing up additional forces in Afghanistan as we draw down in Iraq. 
 
                Q     What do you believe -- when you said the next administration, more precisely, what do you believe the choice -- what will the issue be on the table that will be left to the next administration, as you described it? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I think Barbara what I said is that we are looking at what can be done now, but there is a large request that is out there from the commanders for three additional brigades. That would require us either drawing down more forces than we have drawn down to date from Iraq or mobilizing Reserve forces, the Guard, et cetera, to do those -- to do things of that size -- to do things of that size. 
 
                And so the discussion right now, as I understand it, is focused on what can be done now. Obviously, we do not have the means to send three BCTs to Afghanistan at this very moment without making some very hard choices. But these are all -- all these choices are interrelated. They all have to do with how -- what judgments are made about the security situation in Iraq now that the five surge brigades are out; how comfortable the commanders, the president is with drawing down additional forces from Iraq; and how soon, if we were to do so, could those forces be deployed, retrained, re-missioned to Afghanistan.   
 
                Q     So the three -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: You can't snap your fingers and make this happen, unfortunately. 
 
                Q     The three BCTs, in your assessment, is basically, given the calendar, going to be something for the next administration to decide? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: The three BCTs will take some time to make happen. 
 
                Q     Geoff, can I ask a couple questions about the surge? One of the reasons given for the surge was to give the Iraqis some space to achieve political reconciliation. 
 
                Has it succeeded on that score?   
 
                MR. MORRELL: I think the success of the surge is undeniable. It's self-evident. By every metric that we measure violence in Iraq, there has been a dramatic improvement from where things were before the surge. I'll just point to one. And that is, in July of last year, we had 79 U.S. KIA in Iraq. We have four thus far this month, three-quarters of the way through.   
 
                I knock on wood, because we still have a week to go. And we are always mindful that we are in still a precarious security situation. But there has been dramatic gains on the security side, which has provided the room for all sorts of other success: political, economic. You name it; it is happening in Iraq.    
 
                So let's go through political. Do you want to talk about political gains? We've had basically all the major benchmark legislation passed. Yesterday, we saw the provincial election law passed. I understand that there's the danger of a veto there.    
 
                But that means, the only thing left to be passed legislatively by the council of representatives in Iraq, which everybody thought would be too divided and too young to be effective in leading this new, this reborn country, has passed every piece of legislation, major legislation before it, except for a hydrocarbon law. And revenues are being shared, despite the fact that there is no law mandating it.   
 
                You've seen the Sunni bloc now return to the government. You've seen 10 of 18 provinces return to Iraqi control. And Anbar is awaiting it. You've seen the Najaf International Airport open this weekend.   
 
                You see a $300-million luxury hotel opening up in the Green Zone; $50 million in refurbishment of the airport road. There's economic investment. There's political progress. There's increased security.   
 
                All those things are undeniable and they are attributable to the fact that we plussed up forces in there. That provided a security umbrella for life to begin to return to normal in Iraq.   
 
                Q     So just to clarify, was Senator Obama wrong yesterday when he said that the surge had not succeeded, in terms of the goal of political reconciliation?   
 
                MR. MORRELL: I'm not going to address what Senator Obama or any -- 
 
                Q     (Off mike) --  
 
                MR. MORRELL: -- or any other candidate -- I'm simply not going to address what candidates say. I can just tell you, as I just did, that we clearly believe the surge has provided the security umbrella under which the Iraqis have made enormous progress, politically, economically, security-wise. It is self-evident and undeniable. 
 
                Q     Okay. So one other quick question on the surge. There's also been the question about whether or not the security gains are attributable to the surge, or whether or not they're attributable to other factors, such as the Sunni awakening, the Mahdi Army cease-fire. 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I think there are multiple factors, but the key factor above all factors is the surge and the counterinsurgency strategy it allowed for. I will remind you that before the surge went into effect, the primary posture of our forces was operating behind tall fortified walls in forward operating bases, going out on missions and returning to those FOBs. 
 
                After the surge, we were able to deploy a much more aggressive counterinsurgency strategy, in which we got out into the communities, set up combat outposts, set up joint security stations with the Iraqis, and began to become a part of the communities and revitalize them. 
 
                Clearly we benefitted from a couple of things which happened simultaneous to the surge, the Anbar Awakening being one. But I will remind you, the guy who stood up in Anbar, Sheikh Sattar Abu Risha, the late sheikh, and said, "I've had enough. Several of my family members have been killed. I want to work with you" -- the United States military -- as soon as he did so, we planted -- we parked an M-1 tank in front of his house. So he had a security umbrella in the form of an M-1 tank in front of his house, from which to begin this uprising in Anbar.   
 
                Q     (Off mike) --  
 
                MR. MORRELL: So security was a key component to the awakening in Anbar. 
 
                Now as for the cease-fire by Sadr, if we think that Sadr acted in a vacuum, I think we're kidding ourselves. There clearly was political and military pressure which caused him to make a decision to have his troops stand down.   
 
                But we benefitted from it, no doubt. There's no question that the awakening in Anbar, the cease-fire by Sadr, had -- simultaneous to the surge, has helped the overall security situation in Iraq.   
 
                Q     Can I follow up, Geoff? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Yeah. 
 
                Q     Also on the surge, given the enormous progress that you've cited there, can you explain why there are about 15,000 more troops in Iraq now than there were before the surge began? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Yeah. I mean, you know, not only did we surge combat forces when we had the surge, but we surged enablers as well. And although we have drawn out all the combat brigades, we have not drawn out all the enablers. The enablers are a key component for the continued growth and success of the Iraqi security forces. Iraq, although as you've seen, the ISF, from Basra, to Sadr City, to Amarah, to Mosul, have made enormous strides and have had real gains, security-wise, they still lack fundamental capabilities, which we help them with.   
 
                They do not have as much of the intelligence operations that we can provide them, the aerial support they need, the logistics support they need, the trainers that they benefit from. All those things, many of those things, we are keeping in country so that we can continue to grow the Iraqi security forces as quickly as possible. So there's still a need for them. I don't know how much longer there will be a need for them, but as of right now, the commanders on the ground believe that the enablers are fundamental for the continued growth and success of the Iraqi security forces. 
 
                Q     Given the needs in Afghanistan that you talked about, I mean, the layman would look at that and say there's 15,000 more troops than pre-surge in Iraq. Commanders in Afghanistan are asking for roughly 9,000. We know they're not the same sort of forces -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Right, not the same. 
 
                Q     -- but some of those enablers would also clearly be useful in Afghanistan. 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Sure. Enablers are -- enablers are needed in Afghanistan, and we are looking to see ways in which to provide more enablers to Afghanistan. Absolutely. 
 
                Q     But is nobody saying to General Petraeus, could you have a look at all of that and see if you could shift some of it? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: There is constant tension in the system. That's how it works. You've got people who have different areas of responsibility, with different needs, who are constantly pushing and pulling to try to figure out how to get their needs covered, while at the same time there are people who are concerned about the overarching area of responsibility and then our national security beyond that who try to make -- try to balance the competing needs between commanders. That is the constant and healthy tension, frankly, that exists in our system. 
 
                Q     But I think, specifically on the trainers, General Crone was saying yesterday he's about 3,000 short trainers still. Has there -- any move perhaps to at least redress the balance there? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Yeah, and I -- listen, this discussion is focused so much on what we can do, the United States can do to help meet the need of commanders in Afghanistan. I remind you that we have made this call to our European allies time and time again about the need to provide additional trainers, additional helicopter support. 
 
                I mean, you name it, there are things that are needed that we have called upon our allies to try to provide.   
 
                And while we clearly have had some -- some progress in that front, most notably from the French and from -- from the Poles and all the countries contributing to Regional Command South, and the Germans have made a move parliamentary-wise that looks at least to increase the cap on which they can provide forces, but listen, there is more that can and must be done by our allies to help with this. We cannot do this alone. But we are -- we are not waiting, either, for our allies to figure out what they can do. We are trying to figure out where we can find additional resources that can meet the demands of our commanders. 
 
                Yeah, Jim? 
 
                Q     Does the Iraqis' need for enablers, does that mean that the overall level of forces in Iraq, U.S. forces in Iraq, is going to remain high? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I think it just depends on the judgments -- we've a new commander who's taking over in September. We have a new Central Command commander who's taking over, I believe in October, maybe November. It slips my mind now. And those will be judgments made by a new command structure. 
 
                Q     I mean, can we expect to see these troop numbers remain up in the mid- to high 40s? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: We believe that the quickest way to solidify our gains in Iraq is by enhancing the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces. They better they are -- and they're already pretty darn good. I mean, you talk to commanders and they say, for example, their special operations are probably among the best in the world now, that the quickest way to solidify those gains is by growing the Iraqi security forces and increasing their capabilities.   
 
                But there are capabilities which they -- you know, you talk to Abdul Qader, the minister of Defense in Iraq, and he will tell you, as he's told you before from this podium, that his plan for Iraq in terms of their growth and capabilities calls for them being able to handle their internal defense by 2012 and their external defense by 2018. Now, those numbers may have changed since the last time he spoke to us, by clearly, it's one thing to take on an insurgency within your country, it's another thing to have the means to protect your borders from external threats. And so that's going to require additional air power, it's going to require heavy armor, it's going to require logistics capabilities, intelligence. These are things that they're growing towards, but it doesn't happen overnight. 
 
                Q     The other thing I'd like to ask you about is, you said that in Afghanistan that enemy actions are disconnected from one another and that there are pockets of problems. But Admiral Mullen has said that these diverse groups appear to be coalescing, that they're seeing links among groups who previously didn't operate together. So I'm just wondering which it is, if you can reconcile those. 
 
                Is there some way of reconciling -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I'm not familiar with -- I have not heard the chairman speak to that. But, I mean, obviously, he's the commander -- the ultimate -- pardon me, he's the ultimate military advisor in this matter. And he talks to the commanders regularly. 
 
                My understanding, in talking to the secretary, is that in his conversations with commanders on the ground, one thing that they have noted to him is a disconnect between what they are seeing around the country. Clearly, though -- and this may be what he was speaking to -- in RC East, where we have seen a flow of foreign fighters coming over from Pakistan -- and these are -- these are Uzbeks, Chechens, Arab speakers -- that there is, I think, greater connectivity between those disparate groups than we have seen in the past. 
 
                Q     (Off mike.) 
 
                MR. MORRELL: In one area of Afghanistan, where we have seen not as good of security as we would like on the border, as a result of that, there has been an increase in the flow of foreign fighters into the eastern province -- eastern region. And that has been a group of you know, as I said, Arab speakers, Uzbeks, Chechens, al Qaeda, Taliban and other terrorist groups who are now operating in and out of that area. 
 
                Q     So when the secretary says that he sees it as a mixed picture -- does he see the situation getting worse or just -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I mean, it's mixed. In some areas it's getting worse and in some areas it's improving. 
 
                Okay, Jim? 
 
                Q     Geoff, as part of the effort to find additional troops for Afghanistan, is there any sense that General Petraeus may be asked to make his post-surge recommendations sooner than initially anticipated, in other words, sooner than the six-week consolidation period he initially -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Not to my knowledge, Jim. 
 
                Yeah. 
 
                Q     A little closer to home, in about an hour, the House Armed Services Committee's having a hearing on the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which I think is the first in more than a decade -- the time that's been examined. There are polls inside and outside the military that suggest that there's a greater acceptance now or a greater inclination to accept open service by gay men and women. Does the department have any thoughts about whether it's appropriate to reexamine the policy at this time? And has there been any change in the department's position that service by openly homosexual people would undermine good order and discipline? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I would say only that "don't ask, don't tell" remains the law of the land. And to my knowledge, the department is not advocating a change in policy. 
 
                Jeff?? 
 
                Q     Given the need for troops in Afghanistan, why hasn't the CENTCOM theater reserve force been committed there? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Well, I mean, that's another one of those situations, Jeff, in which commanders must balance needs against risk. Strategic reserve is just that. It's a contingency component force that is available to the Central Command commander should another emergency, a hot spot, some new threat, emerge that needs to be dealt with quickly.   
 
                So I -- I have no doubt that commanders are having that internal discussion. And I'm not -- I wouldn't read anything more into that, but they obviously think about is this a situation in which the situation warrants using this emergency force component to meet the commanders' need? But there's a risk associated with that, and those are the things that are weighed by the guys who get paid the big bucks. 
 
                Q     I know that there's risk, but before the surge, MEUs were sent -- the CENTCOM AOR MEU that was on a float -- were sent to Iraq when needed. This seems like a similar situation. 
 
                MR. MORRELL: It's also operating in a very volatile and tense part of the world right now. And -- 
 
                Q     (Off mike.) 
 
                MR. MORRELL: No, I'm talking about greater regional considerations, Jeff, beyond Iraq, beyond Afghanistan, that commanders have to be mindful of as well. 
 
                Yeah? 
 
                Q     Two questions on things you said already. Don't ask, don't tell; is it fair to say, then, that the Pentagon, the secretary is not looking at any kind of options right now, reexamination of the policy in the near future? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: To my knowledge, no. 
 
                Q     And then on Afghanistan, you mentioned earlier Admiral Mullen's comments about how Iraq is sort of the primary focus right now and Afghanistan's the economy of force. And you said that that notion has not changed. So, to the best of your knowledge, this building, the Pentagon, U.S. military is not considering refocusing their effort, changing -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: You asked me two things, considering and has not changed. To my knowledge, things are still -- the situation is still as he described it, that we do Iraq because we must, we do what we do in Afghanistan as we can. Clearly, we are changing how -- what we can do in Afghanistan because of the success we're seeing in Iraq. But the question is, at what pace? At what pace does that imbalance start to shift and balance out more? At what pace can we begin to do more of what we must in Afghanistan rather than just what we can? And that is predicated, frankly, on what is decided as -- after this period of consolidation and evaluation by General Petraeus and we determine how many additional brigades are needed or can be drawn down from Iraq, which would obviously free up larger numbers of forces to put into Afghanistan. 
 
                Q     Since the U.S. military -- if I remember correctly, I think General McNeill's been asking for three more brigades in Afghanistan when he first came into Afghanistan, which was like 18 months, almost two years ago. So if General McNeill's been asking for this for almost two years now, these three brigades, it's still unfulfilled and Afghanistan still remains the second priority, then presumably, as Barbara was saying earlier, this isn't something that this administration is going to ever be able to fulfill.   
 
                MR. MORRELL: A couple things.   
 
                I don't believe that General McNeill asked for those two brigades from the outset. I do believe he ultimately did ask for them. I do believe that we provided, the secretary provided, an additional brigade.   
 
                We provided, and I think the need has gone up since then, we provided obviously the MEU. We provided a battalion of trainers. The French, the Poles and others have provided for us too.   
 
                So there have been a flow of additional forces into Afghanistan. But I don't think it's any secret to anyone out there that the focus of this building, the focus of this administration has been on winning the war in Iraq, the war that Osama bin Laden said was where he was going to take us on, the war where our troops were being killed by the scores each month.   
 
                And that is the war which we have focused on. That is the war we are now winning. And now that we have seen gains there, the dividend from those gains, we are looking to see if we can apply to Afghanistan.   
 
                It's a question of how soon, not a question of commitment. There's no question -- as you heard from the secretary, the president, the two candidates -- that the U.S. is committed to winning in Afghanistan. It's a question of how soon we can get the additional forces there.   
 
                But as the chairman said last night on MacNeil Lehrer or Jim Lehrer's show, you know, you should not mistake our urgency and our desire, to get forces to Afghanistan, with any sense that we are losing there, okay?   
 
                That is not how he or the secretary views the situation there. But it is serious. And we want to get additional forces there as soon as possible, to turn the situation there as we turned it in Iraq.   
 
                Okay. I think this is the last one. Then we've got to go.   
 
                Q     Since you just said that that's the war we are winning, Iraq, I think, the secretary has declined to say that in the past.   
 
                MR. MORRELL: That we're winning in Iraq.   
 
                Q     Yeah. He’s been asked directly so (inaudible) that’s the view, that you’re winning in Iraq?
 
                MR. MORRELL: That's the view.   
 
                Q     But you're not losing in Afghanistan.   
 
                MR. MORRELL: That's the view.   
 
                Q     Are you winning in Afghanistan?   
 
                MR. MORRELL: Well, I think that some -- it's a mixed bag, as I just said. There are places where we are winning and there are places which we are suffering setbacks. 
 
                Q     But overall? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Overall, I have not heard a -- only thing I have heard about a judgment about whether we are winning or losing in Afghanistan is that we are not losing there. I have not heard an emphatic statement from the chairman or the secretary declaring us winning there.   
 
                I think that their view is that progress is being made and that there are areas in which we are seeing some setbacks, which are disappointing to us, but that nobody believes cannot be overcome. And it is just a matter of time before we are able to apply the additional forces there to turn around Afghanistan in the same manner we turned around Iraq. 
 
                Q     Thank so much. 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Thanks so much.
 
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