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. Pepou

    We have nothing to do in Afghanistan. We will fail just like the Russians did.

    December 13, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  2. Patriot

    It still amazes that Americans refuse to hold accountable the traitors who abandoned the capture of maniac muslims in Afghanistan-Pakistan, and so allowed those insane islamists to now breed up to unimaginable levels.
    In addition the INCOMPETENT bush went to Iraq to begin an UNPROVOKED war, which killed hundreds of thousands and generate even more maniac muslim terrorists.
    These failures of the INCOMPETENT bush are on top of FAILING TO KEEP AMERICA SAFE ON 911!

    When a nation foolishly allows lost destructive and INCOMPETENT leaders no accountability, then the destructive and incompetence WILL continue until the nation is ruined! See the complete economic meltdown of America.

    In any other country there would be a 'regime change' of the bush administration, in addition to criminal indictment for the UNPROVOKED Iraqi invasion that cost Americans tens of thousands of lives, limbs and mental health, in addition to the utter waste of trillions of dollars!

    Wake up, America! Bush, Rogue, and the rest of the gang should be at least going through what Blagojevich is going through FOR FAR LESSER CRIMES against the country!

    December 13, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  3. FreeNLovIt

    Good! EU, America and everybody else in between, needs to help make this a success. Our pain is their pain.

    December 13, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  4. Ken

    What is the matter with the Pentagons thinking. Don't they remember the Russians had 400,000 troops in That country for nine years and had to give up ? How is the US supposed to do it with less than 100,00 troops. Get out and let the Eastern nations handle the matter with their neighbors.

    December 13, 2008 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  5. Walt, Belton,TX

    Gates sounds as confident as Rumsfeld. Whoopie!

    December 13, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  6. proudliberal-independent

    why is general odeirno already backtracking on the status of forces agreement with iraq? He's already calling for troops to remain in the cities after their summer deadline. Barack should have brought a little more 'change' to the foreign policy team. these guy's just dont get it! al sadr and the shiites will not be happy........

    December 13, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  7. ran

    let us not repeat the same mistake as in Iraq or Vietnam. Have we not learn yet. Come on guys get it right in this situation more is better.

    December 13, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  8. curtis in WI

    And this is just one of the many reasons why the Gates retention dismayed me.

    December 13, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  9. DOCS 3

    WE WILL NEVER WIN IN ANY MIDDLE EASTERN COUNTRY. IF WE DO AS HILLARY SUGGESTED WITH A NUCLEAR BOMB THESE PROUD PEOPLE WILL STILL RESIST. OUR PROBLEM IS NOT TO
    UNDERSTAND HOW ALL THOSE TERRORISTS GET A FOOT HOLD ON THE MINDS OF THE PEOPLE WE ARE SUPPOSE TO BE TRYING TO HELP. BETTER TO STOP NOW AND LEARN THAN SACRIFICE ANY MORE OF OUR YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN BLOOD. THESE PEOPLE HAVE BEEN FIGHTING IN SOME FORM OR ANOTHER FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS. NOW WE HAVE INSERTED OUR NATION INTO THEIR BATTLES. OBAMA IS A GOOD START BUT WE AS A NATION HAVE TO GET ON THE BUS, ALL OF US. IF NOT WE WILL BE IN A FIGHT FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS. WE ALL MUST REMEMBER THAT IT IS MUCH EASIER TO HATE THAN TO LOVE. LOVE TAKES A LOT OF TIME AND UNDERSTANDING. JESUS TAUGHT US THAT AND WAS NAILED TO A CROSS. CAN WE AS A NATION. THE ALTERNATIVE IS THE BLOOD OF OUR CHILDREN.

    December 13, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  10. Remy

    GATES still a BUSH-MAN! Obama is going to get the same bad name like Bush in the matter of Iraq and Afghanistan!

    GATES dont want to destroy TALIBAN in Pakistan or in Afghanistan! Obama must remove this Gates to keep his promises!

    December 13, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  11. purple mountains

    bring our troops home and let them take care of america for a change.

    December 13, 2008 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  12. FreeNLovIt

    To ProudLiberal

    We need friends to help fund the $10 billion a month war. How about asking Qatar and the Saudis to help out? They have been building high-rises while we are busy drinking with the camels?

    December 13, 2008 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  13. FreeNLovIt

    To ProudLiberal

    I dont know. If we pull out at the wrong time and Iraq BLOWS up, then what do we do? Have you thought of it? Please keep asking Obama to pull out, but also give him ideas on what he needs to do if this fragile peace, BLOWS up..

    December 13, 2008 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  14. rayster

    No mention of the Cqanadian troops killed today. They have the highest casulty rate amung the nato forces per capita

    December 13, 2008 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  15. sandy

    HERE WE GO AGAIN!! For the love of God, just bring all of our troops out of the middle east and lets think about US for a while.

    December 13, 2008 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  16. Miro, MI

    Don't make mistake, and compare soviets 120,000 young, untrained boys with our soldiers. The soviets have send their people there with a week or two military training, boys without any experience in warfare, young people who thought that they can make a few hundreds dollars being in Afganistan. Our soldiers are far more profesional, much better equiped, people who know what are doing, with much better support that they need in crisis situation. Our soldiers can take those f...... Talibans down with just a litle bit more support that is needed.
    Obama is right keeping Mr. Gates in this position. Go Gates, go Obama! Do the job right!

    December 13, 2008 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  17. kent

    Gates "doubts U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan will reach the levels attained in Iraq."
    What should not doubt is that whatever levle of American troop occupy Afganistan, this is yet another 'no win war.'

    December 13, 2008 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  18. carol

    If the Russian's couldn't succeed in Afghanistan after all that time, then I really don't see how we can fare any better......we've been there for some time already and what has been achieved in getting Osama Bin Laden?
    It all seems so futile, all those troops trying to work in a terrain they know nothing about, they are just like sitting ducks and to send more in really seems senseless.
    Whenever is enough, enough...will we be there for another 19 years like Russia and in the end just have to leave.....after achieving what...more dead troops and possibly no resolution.

    December 13, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  19. FreeNLovIt

    to Kent

    Okay, the final decision is to pull all TROOPS out, and let Iran handle it. I heard they're not that crazy about the Talibans.

    December 13, 2008 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  20. FreeNLovIt

    Yes, we are not going to win. We just need to train them, provide air support and let them fight their own battles in Iraq and in Afghanistan. However, if you want military training, Afghan and Iraq will be a great training center, but I dare not go there.

    December 13, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  21. FreeNLovIt

    Above all, we need to start asking the world to help fund this war. We can no longer go out on our own.

    December 13, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  22. Dennis from Millbrae, CA

    The world community needs to have a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan strengthening local and the national government and building infrastructure, including utilities, roads, schools, and an economic base. Further, we need a 1:1 ratio of engineers, economists, and maintenance people to help train the Afghans on how to design, construct and maintain this infrastructure. We need to bring Afghanistan into at least the 20th century, if not the 21st century. If our sole purpose in being there is to fight the bad guys–and we'll certainly have to do that–we will be there forever. The Afghans have to decide for themselves who and what they want to be and we then have to give them the capability to get there.

    December 13, 2008 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  23. Clinton Fringer

    As an Army spouse of 21 years............ I call BS.

    December 13, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  24. Joe Fattal

    Now I see why Obama kept Gates on the job. He is probably the only one that knows about foreign policy beside Hillary.

    December 13, 2008 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  25. sEAN

    We Canadians need help in Afganistan, because it has become one of the most volatile fronts in The War on Terror!. Please send help!

    December 13, 2008 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
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