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Pentagon's Gates: Bush policy left too few troops in Afghanistan

January 27, 2009 |  8:12 am

Soldiers with the U.S. Army's 6-4 Cavalry walking down a mountain path during a patrol near Combat Outpost Keating in eastern Afghanistan Jan. 24, 2009

Pentagon Secretary Robert Gates, the only holdover from the Bush administration, told Congress today that the United States has too few troops in Afghanistan and that international efforts there have been uncoordinated and "less than stellar."

Without blaming his previous boss, George W. Bush, for the policy lapses, Gates said:

"We have not had enough troops to provide a baseline level of security in some of the most dangerous areas -- a vacuum that increasingly has been filled by the Taliban."

That of course is precisely the argument that candidate Barack Obama made during the presidential campaign as he urged an end to the war in Iraq and a renewal of U.S. attention to Afghanistan.

Asked about how quickly President Obama could draw down troops in Iraq and increase them in Afghanistan, Gates said, "Should the president make the final decision to deploy additional brigades to Afghanistan," two combat brigades could arrive "probably by late spring" and, potentially, "a third by midsummer."

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-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: U.S. soldiers walk down a mountain path while on patrol in eastern Afghanistan on Jan. 24, 2009. Credit: Bob Strong / Reuters