Afghanistan Agenda

By Christopher J. Castelli / May 8, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance are on the mind of Defense Secretary Robert Gates as he visits Afghanistan today.

"Well, mainly, I just want to see how it's going in terms of the new infrastructure to accommodate the additional troops," he told reporters while en route there. "I want to ask right at the ground level what do you need out here you're not getting? How are the MRAPs working out here? How are the MRAPs with the new suspension working out here? What kind of numbers do you think you need? Is there other equipment that you need?"

Gates added: "I just want to keep the focus here; we have 21,000 additional troops going in over time. I just want to keep the focus on what I've been talking about for months, and that is, 'What do we need to do to get the equipment and the support to the troops in the field so they can be successful and come home safely?'"

He said he would check on steps taken to improve the medical evacuation of troops in Afghanistan. "I sent 10 or a dozen additional helicopters out to try and meet that requirement; a new combat aviation brigade is coming in this month and will that meet the need that on a longer term basis that the 10 additional helicopters met on a short-term basis?" he said.

But Gates said his "favorite subject" is ISR.

"Well, we've put a lot of new stuff in there and there's more to come in under the FY '10 budget," he added. "I just want to make sure they're ready for it, that they'll be able to absorb it and use it in an effective way and what is the still unmet need."