US Defence Secretary Robert Gates held an unannounced meeting with his top commanders in charge of the war in Afghanistan at a US air base in Belgium, the Pentagon said yesterday.
The meeting at Chievres Air Base was arranged to give Gates an update on a review of the war being conducted by US Army General Stanley McChrystal, the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said.
“He wanted an opportunity to speak firsthand with his commanders and his senior military advisers about how the assessment was unfolding,” Morrell told reporters.
The unusual meeting was not announced in advance. In addition to McChrystal and Gates, the meeting was also attended by a handful of other top US military and defence officials, Morrell said. He declined to discuss further details.
The officials discussed a possible troop increase in Afghanistan, ABC News reported, citing defence sources who it did not identify.
McChrystal’s advisors have said publicly that he will need more boots on the ground even after force levels reach 68 000 US troops on top of more than 30 000 from allied nations later this year.
The ABC report said McChrystal’s assessment team has suggested deploying about 12 000 to 27 000 additional US troops, above the more than 20,000 extra troops President Obama already has approved.
The Obama administration has poured tens of thousands of troops into Afghanistan this year in an effort to turn the tide in a war that US officials have acknowledged they are not winning. The war began in 2001.
McChrystal took command in mid-June with orders to revitalize the war effort after Gates dismissed McChrystal’s predecessor, US Army General David McKiernan.
McChrystal is due to provide his 60-day assessment of the war by mid-August.
Morrell said the meeting also was attended by: Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; US Army General David Petraeus, head of US Central Command; Admiral James Stavridis, NATO’s top commander; Pentagon policy chief Michele Flournoy; and US Army Lieutenant General David Rodriguez, McChrystal’s deputy.
Pic: US Defence Secretary- Robert Gates