WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama will probably decide in "the next few days" on the deployment of additional US troops to Afghanistan, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday.
A review of options for an Iraq drawdown has not begun yet, he said.
"The president will have several options before him," Gates told reporters, referring to Afghanistan. "And I think he will make those decisions probably in the course of the next few days."
Gates said he has made his recommendations on Afghanistan to the president, and that the options presented to the president "give him several ways of going forward, including the pacing of troops going to Afghanistan."
Deployment decisions have to be made before the new administration completes a comprehensive review of its strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan because combat brigades must be notified soon if they are to deploy in time, he said.
The US commander in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan, has requested up to 30,000 additional troops, including three more combat brigades and aviation brigade and support troops.
If the deployments are approved, it would nearly double the size of the US force, which currently numbers around 36,000.
"This is the first time that this president has been asked to deploy large numbers of troops overseas, and it seems to me a thoughtful and deliberative approach to that decision is entirely appropriate," Gates said.
The White House earlier named a former CIA official, Bruce Riedel, to chair a comprehensive inter-agency review of US policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"The review of options for Iraq has not really begun yet. The focus so far has been on Afghanistan," Gates said, arguing that better conditions in Iraq will allow for greater military flexibility in Afghanistan.
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