Mullen May Back More Iraq Cuts
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News, I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
More U.S. troops may be coming home from Iraq this fall. At the same time, today Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he's looking for ways to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. That announcement comes several days after one of the deadliest attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion.
NPR's Guy Raz reports from the Pentagon.
GUY RAZ: The week the surge in Iraq formally ends, a new surge might yet take place 500 miles to Iraq's east, in Afghanistan. But first, Iraq.
Security conditions there are better than they've been in four years. It's why today, Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, could say…
Admiral MICHAEL MULLEN (Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff): Indeed, if these trends continue, I expect to be able, early in the fall, to recommend to the secretary to the president, further troop reductions.
RAZ: Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates are implying that by reducing resources in Iraq, they might be able to ship some to Afghanistan. There are 36,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, that's less than a fourth the number of troops in Iraq. So Gates now says he is looking for ways to get more into Afghanistan before the end of the administration's term expires.
Secretary ROBERT GATES (U.S. Department of Defense): We are clearly working very hard to see if there are opportunities to send additional forces sooner rather than later.
RAZ: On Sunday, nine U.S. soldiers were killed in Eastern Afghanistan after insurgents managed to launch an attack on a remote military outpost near the Afghan-Pakistan border. Thousands of Taliban fighters now operate out of base camps inside Pakistan along the Afghan border.
Today, both Gates and Admiral Mullen carefully hinted that Pakistan was not fully cooperating in policing its border with Afghanistan.
Adm. MULLEN: The bottom line is this: We're seeing a greater number of insurgents and foreign fighters flowing across the border with Pakistan unmolested and unhindered. This movement needs to stop.
RAZ: Meanwhile, on Tuesday, U.S. forces abandoned that military outpost where Sunday's attack occurred - a move almost certainly to be interpreted as a victory for the Taliban.
Guy Raz, NPR News, the Pentagon.