Amid reports that the Obama administration may be considering an accelerated troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Sunday highlighted his views on the timing and nature of the coming reduction.
Paying a farewell visit to U.S. forces in Afghanistan before he leaves his post late this month, Gates said that if it were up to him, he would favor withdrawing support troops first and leaving the combat component – “the shooters” – in place for as long as possible.
“I would look for support people that we no longer need,” he said during a visit to Forward Operating Base Dwyer in Helmand province. “We’ve done a lot of construction – maybe those people aren’t needed. I’d try to maximize my combat capability as long as this process goes on.”
Gates acknowledged, however, that it was likely that “a mix” of support and combat troops would be withdrawn.
“We don’t have that many support people out here so it’s going to probably end up being a mix of some combat elements and some support elements.”
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