Marines to stay in Afghanistan a month longer

07/03/08 Mitch E. Perry
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The Pentagon has extended the tour of 2,200 U.S. Marines in Afghanistan, after insisting for months the unit would come home on time.

The Marines said the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is doing combat operations in the volatile south, will stay an extra 30 days and come home in early November rather than October.

The news comes a day after Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that more troops were needed in Afghanistan, but the Pentagon did not have enough because of commitments in Iraq.

But Defense Secretary Robert Gates has repeatedly said he did not intend to extend or replace the Marines in Afghanistan, calling their deployment there an extraordinary, one-time effort to help tamp down the increasing violence in the south.

Sarah Sewell is a former deputy assistant Secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration. She said Admiral Mullen’s comments come as no surprise to her.

Susan Rice is a senior Foreign Policy Advisor to Barack Obama. She quoted John McCain earlier this year saying that Iraq had not diverted resources from the fight in Afghanistan.

Rice said Obama called a year ago to install at least two additional U.S. brigades in Afghanistan, and combine that with trying to attract more NATO Forces to the region.

Meanwhile, aides are admitting to the Wall Street Journal that, if elected, Barack Obama may ask Gates to stay on as defense chief.

Gates has said that this fall will mark the first time wartime handover of power since the Johnson administration ceded control of the Vietnam effort to the Nixon White House.

The Journal reports both the Obama and McCain campaigns are working to compile lists of potential nominees for dozens of national security and counterterrorism positions so would-be policy makers can be vetted and confirmed as quickly as possible.

Recently Michele Flournoy, president of the Center for a New American Security, a liberal think tank, and Richard Armitage, a former Bush administration official, published an op-ed noting that it took the Clinton and Bush administrations nearly half a year to get major Pentagon and State Department personnel confirmed and into office.

They are arguing for keeping some Bush administration personnel in place until successors are confirmed, and expediting vetting and confirming the to 40 to 50 members of the next administration’s security team.

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