By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Oct. 7, 2009 - As President Barack Obama and senior defense and national security leaders reconvened meetings today on the way forward in Afghanistan, they did so with the addition of Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's list of requested resources, the Pentagon press secretary said. Obama received a copy of McChrystal's request for resources late last week from Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Geoff Morrell told reporters here today.
On Monday, Gates also provided copies of the resource request to senior White House officials, to include National Security Council members, he said.
Obama wanted a copy of the report to read last weekend, Morrell said.
The Afghanistan resources request is now formally working its way through the U.S. military and NATO chains of command, he said.
Morrell referred to the copies provided to Obama and other senior White House officials as "informal" documents that didn't bear official comments of review or vetting from senior civilian and military leaders. Those leaders, he said, include Gates; Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, which oversees operations in Afghanistan.
However, all of the Pentagon's top leaders, to include Petraeus and McChrystal, have been closely involved in White House discussions on the way ahead in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Morrell pointed out. The White House hosted the first of a series of strategy meetings on Sept. 30.
A second such meeting was held today, Morrell said, with another slated for Friday.
Gates likely decided to hold onto the resource assessment until directed otherwise by the president, Morrell suggested, to limit the possibility of leaking information, such as occurred earlier with McChrystal's assessment on the situation in Afghanistan.
Everyone concerned, Morrell emphasized, will have an opportunity to "weigh-in" with their opinions.
"Obviously, this has been a slightly unconventional process and an informal copy as I mentioned bypassed the chain of command at the secretary's request, so he could own it and could therefore make decisions about where it should go, when it should go," he said.
Today marks the eighth anniversary of the start of Operation Enduring Freedom, which removed the Taliban from power in Afghanistan.
"We have seen our amazing military men and women adapt to and overcome daunting terrain, harsh conditions and an agile and ruthless enemy," Morrell said of the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan.
Nearly 800 Americans have died in military operations in and around Afghanistan since the war began, Morrell said. He cited the deaths of eight U.S. soldiers who died there last weekend during an enemy assault on a remote outpost in Nurestan province.
"Our thoughts are with their families and all families who have sacrificed so much in Operation Enduring Freedom," he said.
Located near the border with Pakistan, the outpost was slated to be closed, Morrell said, as part of McChrystal's counterinsurgency strategy to move U.S. troops closer to major Afghan population centers.
An investigation into circumstances surrounding the attack is ongoing, Morrell said. The enemy, he said, paid dearly, losing 100 fighters during the assault and in its aftermath.
Turning to other defense matters, Morrell said the Pentagon is developing a conventional 30,000 pound, massive ordnance penetrator bomb designed to pulverize underground facilities that may store weapons of mass destruction and related systems. The bomb, he said, should be ready for deployment in the coming months.
"This has been a capability that we have long believed was missing from our quiver or our arsenal," Morrell said, "and we wanted to make sure we filled in that gap."
There is no specific target list for the new weapon, Morrell emphasized.
The bomb "is just a capability that we think is necessary, given the world we live in these days," he said.