December 13th, 2008
04:05 PM ET
6 years ago

Gates: Afghanistan won't need Iraq-level troop presence

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates speaks to U.S. troops at Joint Base Balad in Iraq on Saturday.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates speaks to U.S. troops at Joint Base Balad in Iraq on Saturday.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) - U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who arrived in Iraq in a surprise visit Saturday, said he doubts U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan will reach the levels attained in Iraq.

The Soviets, who invaded Afghanistan in the 1970s but left in early 1989 after failing to control the country, had 120,000 troops but lost because they didn't have the support of the people, Gates told troops at Balad Air Base, just north of Baghdad.

The U.S. military has about 31,000 troops in Afghanistan, less than a quarter of its total strength in Iraq.

Gates' predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, made similar comments in a 2005 Senate hearing about the Soviet presence in Afghanistan. At the time, Rumsfeld was dealing with a conflict of a different nature, but the comments arose while he was defending what critics called insufficient U.S. troop strength in Iraq.

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Filed under: Iraq • Robert Gates
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Larry

    I realize a lot of Americans don't want to be in a foreign country fighting a war,I don't think you realize what the alternative is, to be fighting a war here.Our solders have enlisted(it's all volunteer) in the military to defend you and our country.They are doing this so you and your family can go to the mall and not be blown up in our country.Freedom is not free.

    December 13, 2008 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
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