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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

SecDef meets with military leaders in Afghanistan

17 January 2007
By Army Cpl. Tremeshia D. Ellis
19th Public Affairs Detachment

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates met with U.S. military leaders at Bagram Airfield today for intelligence updates and discussions on current and future operations in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon’s top official made the trip to Bagram, the operational headquarters for the eastern regional command in Afghanistan, just a month after taking the reins at the Pentagon and dropping in on troops in Iraq.

This is part of a whirlwind effort Gates is making to get a first-hand perspective of the war on terror by visiting senior U.S. and Coalition senior leaders and troops on the ground in the Central and Southwest Asia, officials said.

Gates was accompanied by Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Army Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, commander of Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan. He was welcomed to Bagram by Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-76 and the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry).

During Gates’ time at Bagram, military leaders explained current and future capabilities of the airfield and how those capabilities will affect the overall mission in Afghanistan to defeat terrorism, provide humanitarian assistance and aid in infrastructure and economic development.

“It was a good exchange of ideas. The secretary and his entire team seemed very open and receptive,” Freakley said. “It’s great that the secretary would want to assess the situation, meet with his commanders on the ground and get their viewpoints and recommendations so early on in his tenure and during a time when he is preparing to make significant recommendations to the president.”

Though not unusual, Freakley said he feels these types of visits are of the utmost importance.

“Key leader visits are crucial to getting strategic guidance and also to fully understand the mission in Afghanistan,” he said.

The Defense Secretary agreed. Gates, who called success in Afghanistan one of his “top priorities,” said the objective of his visits are “to go out, listen to the commanders and see what I can learn.”

Photo - U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates discusses Bagram operations with senior U.S. leaders. Marine Gen. Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Center), looks on. Gates and Pace visited Bagram Airfield today. (Photo by Army Cpl. Tremeshia D. Ellis).

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