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Gates on McChrystal, Afghanistan

From NBC's Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube
Defense Secretary Robert Gates is on the road today in Texas, and said he hasn't seen the report by Gen. Stanley McChrystal on Afghanistan -- but will see it in the next day or two.

Over the past few months, McChrystal has pretty much laid out what he thinks needs to be done in Afghanistan, but Gates said he had a couple additional questions he wanted the general to answer.

Strategy assessment
"There is no question we have a tough fight ahead of us in Afghanistan, a lot of challenges. By the same token, I think a lot of positive things have been happening -- in terms of getting more American troops into place, there are more European and partner troops in place now, 37,000 partner-nation troops in Afghanistan. The elections took place in a country torn by war for more than 30 years. The fact those elections were able to take place I think is an important thing."

"The fact that we're going into areas where the Taliban have basically been unchallenged for a number of years means that are casualties are going to be higher. I am concerned we haven't discussed this with respect to the assessment. But I am concerned about getting assets into Afghanistan to help us deal with the IED problem. I expect the all-terrain MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) will begin flowing into Afghanistan in October, and we are in the process of putting significant intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in there as well. It worked well for us in Iraq in dealing with the IED problem and we're all hoping it will help us in Afghanistan as well."

Overall assessment
"While there's a lot of gloom and doom going around, I think Gen. McChrystal's assessment will be a realistic one and set for the challenges we have in front of us. At the same time, I think we have some assets in place and developments that hold promise."

More U.S. troops?
Gates said he has not seen any request for additional American troops from McChrystal.  President Obama authorized sending an additional 21,000 U.S. forces into Afghanistan this year. So far, about 16,000 have gone and another 5,000 remain to be sent -- which would bring the total number to 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

"We have been very explicit that Gen. McChrystal should be forthright in telling us what he needs in order to accomplish the mission he has been given. We will look at his assessment and then look at the resource recommendations that me makes. I think there are larger issues. I have expressed some concerns in the past about the size of the footprint, the size of the foreign military footprint in Afghanistan. And, clearly, I want to address those issues. We will have to look at the availability of forces, the cost, a lot of different thing we'll have to look at once we get his recommendations before we make any recommendations to the president."