U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says there is still no plan to send
additional U.S. combat troops to Afghanistan, even though he has said
he would like to do so "sooner rather than later." VOA's Al Pessin
reports from the Pentagon.
Two weeks ago, Secretary Gates said
officials were "working very hard" to figure out which additional U.S.
combat forces could be sent to Afghanistan to deal with increased
violence during the current summer fighting season. At a news
conference on Thursday, he said no such forces have yet been
identified, but he did not rule out getting additional U.S. troops to
Afghanistan before the fighting season ends.
"I'm just saying
that we're still working through it and I haven't received any
recommendations yet from the chiefs [of the military services] or from
the Central Command commander," he said.
Secretary Gates did
confirm that a small number of U.S. troops may be deployed to
Afghanistan in the coming weeks to work in particular specialties, such
as disposing of explosives and helping with civilian development and
"The numbers are not significant. At most, a
couple of hundred, maybe," he said.
For a larger force of combat troops,
Secretary Gates is waiting to see a formal recommendation from military
leaders. And he says any major deployment to Afghanistan will have to
await recommendations on future troop levels in Iraq, which are
expected in September.
Earlier in the week, Pentagon Press
Secretary Geoff Morrell indicated that while there is concern about
increased violence in Afghanistan, officials do not see the situation
as "desperately urgent."
"Though the situation is serious and the
commanders need additional troops, there is not the sense in this
building among military planners, among the civilian leadership, that
the situation is desperate, precarious or urgent. It is an ongoing
problem that needs to be addressed," he said.
According to the
Defense Department, July was the first month in which more U.S. troops
died in Afghanistan than in Iraq. The department says nine died in
Iraq, but five of them died in accidents and other non-combat events.
In Afghanistan, 20 U.S. troops died in July, four of them from
non-hostile causes. The Afghanistan total includes nine troops who
were killed in one insurgent attack on a remote outpost.