September 27th, 2009
09:19 AM ET
13 years ago

Gates: Any new troops to Afghanistan wouldn't 'flow' til early 2010

WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Afghanistan conflict has proven more difficult than anticipated, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in echoing President Barack Obama’s deliberative approach on whether to send more troops.

In an interview broadcast Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, Gates said the focus on Iraq by the previous administration of President George W. Bush meant the operation in Afghanistan has been limited.

“The reality is, we were fighting a holding action,” Gates said of situation under Bush, whom he also served as defense secretary.

“We were very deeply engaged in Iraq,” Gates said, later adding: “We were too stretched to do more. And I think we did not have the kind of comprehensive strategy that … we have now.”

Setting an exit strategy for Afghanistan would be a mistake, but the United States also will closely monitor developments to ensure its strategy is achieving desired results, Gates said.

Obama is under increasing pressure from congressional Republicans who favor sending more troops, as desired by commanding Gen. Stanley McChrystal, while many of the president’s fellow Democrats are expressing resistance.

Gates said McChrystal “found a situation in Afghanistan that is more serious than … we had thought and that he had thought before going out there.”

Asked why the Obama administration has yet to decide on McChrystal’s assessment that more troops will be necessary to defeat insurgents and protect the local population, Gates said it would take more time to properly analyze the situation.

"I think we are in the middle of a review," Gates told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King, adding : “Once we're confident we have the strategy right, then - then we'll address the question of additional resources.”

Gates also noted that any additional combat troops for Afghanistan "really probably could not begin to flow" until January 2010.

He disagreed with setting a clear exit strategy for Afghanistan.

"[T]he notion of - of timelines and exit strategies and so on, frankly, I think would all be a - a strategic mistake," Gates said. "The reality is - failure in Afghanistan would be a huge setback for the United States.

“[The] Taliban and Al Qaeda, as far as they're concerned, defeated one superpower, [the Soviet Union],” he continued. “For them to be seen to defeat a second, I think, would have catastrophic consequences in terms of energizing the extremist movement, Al Qaeda recruitment, operations, fundraising, and so on. I think it would be a huge setback for the United States.”

Gates said the process should be defining a strategy “that we think can be successful, and then to pursue it and pursue it with confidence and resolution." At the same time, Gates suggested that the administration was not moving toward an open-ended, indefinite commitment to having a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.

"I think that we are being very careful to look at this as we go along," Gates said. "We've put out metrics so that we can measure whether or not we're making progress. And if we're not making progress, then we're prepared to adjust our strategy, just as we're looking at whether adjustments are needed right now."

Filed under: Afghanistan • Popular Posts • Robert Gates • State of the Union
soundoff (131 Responses)
  1. Dave LZ

    Afghanistan – the Russians see payback for what we did to them and the Chinese are watching us go broke there, Iraq and ramping up with Iran. Any Asian cooperation will be lip service. If that idiot Bush had just gone after the right guys rather than catering to the interests of his cronies, we'd be wrapping up an endgame rather comtemplating ways out.

    September 27, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  2. Kalim

    US is losing war in Afghanistan as they were flushed off in Somalia & vietnam..US people has no money for their loans EMI while the gov has money to wage a war for false supremacy...US is most hated people in the world..SHAME SHAME

    September 27, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    I'm so glad most of you folks were not around in WWII. Say what ever you want about Bush, he kept the country safe by bringing the war to the enemy. He liberated 60 million people. I though liberty was more inportant than anything! I guess it is only if it benefits those in power. We can win in Afganistan if the left let the commanders on the ground fight the war like a war! There were WMD in Iraq, you forget that the UN said stop 14 times in resolutions, and 18 months passed. Convoys of truck were seen via satillite going into Syria.

    September 27, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  4. Rob

    Here's an idea – Obama recently mentioned maybe the newspapers should have a "bailout". I saw lots of comments from people who actually saw no problem with that. Maybe Obama should steal some more money from the tax payers and bail out all the media. Then he can just report that the US won the war, there's peace in the mid-east and the economy is completely recovered!

    September 27, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  5. John UK

    If a war is to be won, leadership should think "What would the Romans do?" When they decided to fight it was total and and they almost always won. Not nice but it worked. The last time this happened was WWII when people appreciated the stakes.
    In the modern world it is not so easy to mess on other countries' turf but if it is worth doing, then do it right; if we cannot "do it right" (lousy intelligence, backbone, misguided reasoning) then stay out and save lives and money.

    September 27, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  6. Matthew

    The idea that we can win the war in Afghanistan, whether through minds and hearts or via any other organ is unrealistic to say the least.
    Russians fought there for years to no avail. And russians don't give a frying puck about their own soldier's and civilian's lives let alone their counterpart's (I speak from the experience of serving in their army).
    So, if you think that with an embedded journalist in every platoon, with daily news pondering sufferings of these poor afghanis and with all the contraints it puts on our military we can win this war – think again.
    As for more troops – sure, why not. Afghanistan had digested 10K+ russians in 10 years. Employing more cautious tactics and better technology we'd probably get better numbers. But, inevitably, the same result.

    September 27, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
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