U.S. to set concrete, near-term Afghan goals: Gates
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. strategy for the war in Afghanistan is likely to shift to more near-term and concrete goals after a review by the Obama administration, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said on Thursday.
President Barack Obama has ordered a review of the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. He is expected to soon approve plans to nearly double the 30,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan as part of his pledge to make the war one of his top priorities.
Gates said no decision on troop deployments to Afghanistan has been made. But the new war plan would focus on "very concrete things" such as establishing control in parts of the country, going after al Qaeda and delivering services and security for the Afghan people, he said.
The Obama and Bush administrations had agreed "that the goals we did have for Afghanistan are too broad and too far into the future, are too future-oriented, and that we need more concrete goals that can be achieved realistically within three to five years," Gates told a news conference.
He said the Obama administration review would take in ideas from a previous Bush administration study, the NATO campaign plan, in-country commanders plans and a study by U.S. Gen. David Petraeus.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that in addition to military strategies, the reviews stress deploying civilian corps, provincial reconstruction teams, improved governance and economic development.
"Over time, without that, all the military troops in the world aren't going to make any difference," he said.
Gates said he recently approved a change in the rules of engagement in Afghanistan so that "if we have evidence that the drug labs and drug lords are supporting the Taliban, then they're fair game."
(Reporting by Paul Eckert; Editing by Xavier Briand)
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