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Gates Overrules Conway: Marines to Remain in Iraq

Gates Overrules Conway: Marines to Remain in Iraq

By Christopher Kuttruff
t r u t h o u t | Report

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said last week that he is opposed to redeploying some US troops in Iraq to Afghanistan, as had been proposed earlier by the Marine Corps commandant, Gen. James T. Conway.

Gates told Marine Corps officials that the situation in Iraq remains volatile and that US forces need to remain in the region.

Separately, however, the Department of Defense said it planned on sending two brigades (about 7,000 service members) from Florida and Georgia to deal with the increasing violence in Afghanistan, a result of the Taliban's return to power.

In early October, The New York Times reported the proposal of General Conway to focus more on the conflict in Afghanistan, while leaving the vast majority of Iraq's operations to the Army.

Gates immediately responded to that report, stating, "My understanding is that it's - at this point - extremely preliminary thinking on the part of, perhaps some staff people in the Marine Corps, but I don't think at this point it has any stature."

However, not until almost a month later did Gates definitively reject the plan. On Wednesday, Conway conceded "... After discussion with the secretary and with my colleagues on the Joint Staff, there is a determination that right now the timing is not right to provide additional Marine forces to Afghanistan."

Conway noted, "There's a little bit of a recruiting consideration here in this, I'll admit to you," but continued to elaborate, "Occupation is not the right word here, but the long-term security forces, that's not a Marine function," he said. "That's not what US Marines do for the country. We're expeditionary, and we do not get engaged in some of the long-term type of duties that you see in Germany or in Japan or in Korea. We are much more mobile than that."

Gates's reluctance to accept the plan indicates certain fears that the recent security gains in Iraq might represent only a temporary break in violence without the political reconciliation so critical to stability.


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