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Pentagon official criticizes timeline; cites 'moral concerns' over gays

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway predicted today that significant number of U.S. Marines and combat forces will be in Afghanistan "hammering" the enemy well past the July 2011 deadline to begin withdrawal of American forces.

In a Pentagon briefing, Conway claimed President Obama's timeline to begin withdrawal is "giving the enemy sustenance," telling the insurgent forces all they have to do is wait for the Americans to leave to takeover control of Afghanistan. But Conway said in some respect the deadline could work in favor of U.S. forces. Conway explained the Marines will be there well after July 2011, and what will the enemy leadership say then "when we're still there hammering them."

"President Obama was speaking to several audiences at the same time," Conway said.

Conway also acknowledged that Americans are "growing tired of the war" in Afghanistan. Pointing out that 60% of Americans polled recently are against the war, Conway said America's "leadership has to do a better job of explaining the last chapter" of the war, and the consequences should the U.S. abruptly pull out of Afghanistan.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell
On "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Conway suggested that if the law is repealed, the Marines may consider allowing Marines not to share quarters with gay servicemembers.

Conway said the Marines may make such arrangements "voluntary" to accommodate any "moral concerns." The general noted many Marines are "very religious," he said, and because of their moral concerns "don't want to room" with gay servicemembers.

But Conway stressed that if the law is repealed, the Marines would take the lead in implementing it. "We cannot be seen as dragging our feet," Conway said. "We've got two wars to fight. We'll implement it and move on."