Speaking to reporters during a visit to a Lockheed-Martin F-35 plant in Fort Worth, Texas, today, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said he has not yet seen Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s assessment, but expects to read it in the next day or two.
The secretary said he believes the assessment will point to the challenges before foreign and Afghan troops. “I think it will also point to areas where we can do better and can make improvements in our strategy and tactics,” he said. “There is no question that we have a tough fight ahead of us in Afghanistan, and a lot of challenges.”
McChrystal also forwarded the assessment to NATO Secretary General Fogh Rasmussen.
“While there is a lot of gloom and doom going around, I think General McChrystal’s assessment will be a realistic one and set forth the challenges we have in front of us,” Gates said. “At the same time, we have some assets in place and some developments that hold promise.”
The number of U.S. and European troops in Afghanistan has increased, with 62,000 American servicemembers and 39,000 from NATO and NATO-partner nations serving there, he said.
With more troops, more areas can be accessed and cleared of the Taliban, al-Qaida and other terror groups. “This means our casualties will be higher,” Gates acknowledged. “I am concerned about getting assets into Afghanistan to help us deal with the improvised explosive device problem.”
All-terrain, mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles should be deploying to the country in October. “We are also in the process of putting significant additional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities there as well,” the secretary said. Such assets are credited with pinpointing bomb-makers and bomb-making sites in Iraq.
McChrystal’s report is a confidential military assessment, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said earlier today, and there is no plan to release it publicly. The assessment does not have specific requests for more forces or more funding, he added, noting that only after leaders are able to digest the assessment will discussions in NATO and Washington on forces and funding begin.
“We have been very explicit that General McChrystal be forthright in telling us what he needs in order to accomplish the mission that he has been given,” Gates said. “We will look at his assessment and then we will look at his resource recommendations.”
While the assessment looks primarily at security, other areas such as governance, the economy and political developments also shape the report, military officials in Kabul said.