'Take a deep breath' on Afghanistan

Pleading for calm, Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday said that the decisions President Barack Obama will have to make about tackling war-torn Afghanistan “are the most important he may face in his presidency.”

Capitol Hill has been abuzz with the possibility that the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, will ask for more U.S. troops to be deployed in order to defeat insurgents.

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“Everybody ought to take a deep breath,” Gates said at the Pentagon briefing on Thursday. Gates stressed that Obama should be given time to study a recent assessment by McChrystal on the situation in Afghanistan.

“Given the importance of the decision that the president faces … we need to take our time and get this right,” Gates said.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, told senators on Tuesday that the Pentagon will likely need to deploy additional troops to Afghanistan to defeat insurgents.

“A properly resourced counter-insurgency [in Afghanistan] probably means more forces,” Mullen told the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing for a second term as the nation’s top military officer.

Mullen said that military leaders have not yet recommended to Obama that more troops be sent. And he has not elaborated on what number of additional troops would be recommended to the president.