TEXARKANA, Texas (May 2, 2008) – The concept of increasing U.S. command and control in Afghanistan “is clearly something that needs to be looked at,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Friday.
Responding to a reporter’s question after touring Red River Army Depot, Gates called the idea that would extend U.S. control into southern Afghanistan “an interesting idea” to be explored.
He emphasized, however, that any change in the command structure in Afghanistan would requires consultation with the coalition partners in Regional Command South, and with consideration of any sensitivities they might have.
NATO took command in southern Afghanistan in mid-2006, and now has overall responsibility throughout the country.
“I think we need to look also at some of our own command and control arrangements,” Gates said. “For example, does it continue to make sense to have two combatant commands involved in one country? And so there are several aspects to this that I think need to be looked at.”
U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan fall under two commands. About 16,000 troops operate under the NATO International Security Assistance Force. Another 18,000 troops support the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom mission.
“We are basically just trying to see, ‘How do you best provide for unity of command, and how do you have the most effective operations possible in Afghanistan?” Gates said. “But we won’t do anything without prior consultation and agreement with our allies.”