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ARLINGTON, Va. — Commanders are reluctant to send the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit to Afghanistan because the unit might be needed elsewhere, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said Tuesday.

"We are working towards getting the commanders in Afghanistan the troops they need as soon as possible, but the situation is not so desperately urgent at this point that it requires us rushing the strategic reserve for Central Command into Afghanistan at this very moment," Morrell said at a news conference.

Commanders in Afghanistan have asked for three additional combat brigades.

About 2,200 Marines and sailors with the 15th MEU are serving as the reserve force in the U.S. Central Command theater of operations.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said military planners are looking to get extra troops to Afghanistan "sooner rather than later."

But the situation in Afghanistan is not so bad the commanders feel the need to rush troops there, thus making the U.S. military unable to respond to emergencies, Morrell said.

"Commanders at this point want to keep the strategic reserve on the sidelines, ready to deploy to any future contingency should they come up," he said.

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