Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pentagon Prepping Options on Iraq, Afghanistan for New Administration

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15, 2009 -- Military planners are hard at work preparing options for drawing down troops in Iraq and moving forward in Afghanistan to present to President-elect Barack Obama after he takes office, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said today.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ discussions with Obama have been “broad in nature” to this point, and the president-elect won’t receive specific options until he is commander in chief, Morrell told reporters. But planners will ensure they’re prepared to give him “the full range of options as soon as he is ready,” he said.

“We will be ready to go when he is ready to go,” he added.

Among the options being explored are ways to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months.

“Our military planners do not live in a vacuum,” Morrell said. “They are well aware that the president-elect has campaigned on withdrawing troops from Iraq on a 16-month timeline. … So it would only be prudent of them to draw up plans that reflect that option. But that is just one of the options that they are drawing up.”

Gates hopes to replicate with Obama the process that he used with President George W. Bush, who received insights directly from top military leaders as well as the secretary, Morrell said.

“The commander in chief will have the opportunity to hear from everybody with an equity stake in this part of the world,” he said.

In addition to Gates, Obama will get a chance to hear from Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, and Army Gen. David D. McKiernan, commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, Morrell said. He also will be able to hear from Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, as well as from the service chiefs and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – “all in person, or all directly,” Morrell said.

“So he will have the full benefit of everybody who is focused on this part of the world,” he added. “He will hear the variety of opinions they may or may not have in how to proceed.”

(Report by Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service.)

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