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. RickyL


    What is it, exactly, that you think Obama has changed in Afghanistan to make things worse??

    September 27, 2009 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  2. Erl in Toronto

    Why do you citizens of the most important country in the world lock yourselves into left vs right, liberal vs conservative, etc thinking? You sound, even when I agree with one side or the other, like grown-up children in the school yard saying: "My dad is better than your dad."

    Then there is "proud army navy mom" spouting ideas with her conclusions before her evidence. Get real, mom. Moles live in the dark, not out in the world behind glass doors that the press opens any time they want.

    You have a wonderful country in the USA, but ask yourselves if your ideas have to be in someone elses box, pre-packaged for you. That thing behind your eyes is meant to be used, not played over and over again like a broken record. Have a nice day, love your neighbors.

    September 27, 2009 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  3. mike

    It takes a fool or a democrat to not realize America should be fighting these wars for many reasons and we need to win.

    America needs to fight wars to keep our military the best in the world. Training only goes so far. Wars are good to find out what works and what does not work in regards to tactics and equipment. It gets our men the experience to beter survive and win future conflicts. They also remind us of the costs of war so as not to take them so lightly.

    Who better to fight these 'tune-up' wars against than the extremist muslims? The way they treat women and historical artifacts is disgraceful and needs to be stopped. And their silly beliefs. Come on! If you die in jihad you go to heaven to be waited on by hundreds of beutiful women? What nonsense! The world would be better if all religion disappeared. People don't need it. All they need is law and order and good jobs to live their short lives in peace. Not some fool telling them what to believe and if they do not they kill them.

    America needs to pur more troops into Afghanistan and finish this thing. We are not the Soviet Union. We can do this thing if we have a little backbone. This is a volunteer army so everyone needs to shut up about lives being lost. Thta is what happens in wars. The only thing anyone can complain about is the cost of fighting these wars. Well if we don't do it right and do it quickly it will cost a lot more. SO everyone shut up, send in more troops and win this thing and get it over with.

    September 27, 2009 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  4. Democrat

    Afghanistan costs the US 7 BILLION Dollars per month

    The Taliban live there and are never leaving

    No nuclear nation (US) has ever invaded another nuclear nation (Packistan)

    From Alexander the Great to the USSR, no one has ever won in Afghanistan

    Why are we in Afghanistan? To protect Packistani' nukes? Why can't we take military action if and only if the nukes are on the verge of being taken by the Taliban?

    September 27, 2009 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  5. Vicky

    I have one daughter in Egypt, and my youngest son is in AIT school, and has received orders for Iraq. My youngest son is 18 and my daughter is 33 with a daughter here. My children fight for everyone. Democrate, Republican, Liberals, EVERYONE. Why don't you all think about them instead of who started what and when and get this overwith and bring my children home. People all they think about is themselves. My children and I think of the US and how to protect our children, and now with Iran and their Nuclear going on we will be in 3 wars at once, Afganistan, Iran and Iraq. You who say just get out, will who's going to stop the nuclear missels, my son and daughter so get off your duff and quit placing blame and do something. Alot of words here but no action.

    September 27, 2009 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  6. Tom from Virginia

    The Secretary hesitates to specifically state that they will not have an exit strategy and will specifically commit more troops.

    I think the previous administration had no problem "anticipating" the difficulties of Afghanistan, which is why we had a limited commitment there. The cultural differences and terrain combine to produce too many isolated and extreme pockets of resistence to external influence. A large foreign force cannot "win" there.

    I'm beginning to think the administration's "strategy" in Afghanistan was to retain Sec. Gates as a Bush-appointed scapegoat.

    September 27, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  7. Jim in Ozark, MO

    Fighting two major operations simultaneosly was one of Don Rumsfeld's dumb changes to US Doctrine. An tactician will tell you to not fight two or more fronts simultaneously. That was one of the reasons Hitler lost: he tried to fight three fronts at once. Splitting assets means sacrificing capability: the main cause of our shortfall in money, equipment, and focus and the huge human toll on our troops and their families. The stupidity of Irag operations is astronomical in scale yet unimportant to this discussion. Fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan (and possibly yet hopefully not in Iran as well) is por leadership. The result of our top leadership consisting of an AWOLee, a draft dodger, and a reserve flight instructor. Made worse by a SECDEF who publicly hamstrung his Army Chief of Staff ad not listening to that same CofS. As an old Republican and extreme conservative myself, I find it hard to say Mikey is SOO wrong. But he is. Obama inherited more dootie piles than the recession: he inherited an exhausted military, an electorate tired of wars (which historically can't find US acceptance if more than four years long), and many more caskets than following 911. Yes, Clinton reduced our military: the populace wanted that as it costs a ot to maintain a military (he was also a draft dodger and didn't value the military); dumb mistake. Then Rumsfeld "screwed the pooch" in so many new was. Now we're roughly eight years into an Afghanistan nightmare. The Russians were there ten years; had 100 Divisions boots on ground; could kill anyone they wanted without media shrieks And lost. Their Vietnam and ours, too. It's not the liberals who go us so fouled up: it was conservatives and it's still conservatives who want escalation. But swe do need to do what Bush/Rumsfeld didn't do and I hope Obama IS doing: listen to the professional Soldiers leading the troops ad for whom the campaign is their responsibility. We were shamed and broken by Vietnam; shamed and ridiculed by Somalia; now we're going to appear the same in Iraq and Afghanistan. The real, underlying problem lies in fighting a religious war: and that is what it is to the Muslims .. a religious war. So we'll go out ad spill some more blood from our youngest and best ... run up some more debt ... and likely declare a win at some time in order to leave. Then build another black wall in DC. Sometimes we're just dumber than dirt.

    September 27, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |

    I thought you yanks would have learnt from Vietnam but you haven;t

    September 27, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  9. Lucy from Pennsylvania

    wow, am i relieved that someone is finally constructing an all branches review of our strategy! the conservative point of view that we need to just invade, invade, invade just doesn't work, it only makes more enemies.

    September 27, 2009 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  10. Mo Ahmed

    Since 1919 Afghanistan has tried every form of Government except American style Constitutional Democracy. It had 9 Forms of Government ranging from – Emirate (Amanullah Khan) – Kingdom -Dictatorship – Communist style Soviet Republic – Republic – Islamic State – Islamic State – to Islamic Republic (Hamid Karzai) –
    and 21 Heads of State. What makes me fellow Americans think we will succeed with another puppet regime that no one can support. Alexander the Great did not succeed in unifying it – Obama the Great can try.
    Mo Ahmed

    September 27, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  11. Mac

    What is it with these ridiculous party lines!? "Liberals are unfit to be Commander-in-Chief" "Republicans are unfit to be Commander-in-Chief". Get over yourselves and your parties. It doesn't matter if your a conservative a liberal, or anything else. What matters is whats good for America. Lets focus on that for a change, instead of playing the freaking blame game!

    September 27, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  12. Jerry Dunn

    This is embarrassing. We cannot even beat a fourth world army like the Taliban. Bin Laden has really done a number on this country.

    September 27, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  13. Bill McL in Smyrna, TN

    Look at your History.
    The British Empire could not tame Afghanistan.
    The Soviet Union could not tame Afghanistan.
    Why does the USA think they can tame Afghanistan after Vietnam and "Iraq good enough"?

    September 27, 2009 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  14. Tom from the Midwest

    Bush has caused his war in Afghanistan to last way longer than WWII, when we were fighting the Germans in Europe and the Japanese in Asia. Bush has caused his oil war-of-choice in Iraq to last way longer than WWII, because he took his eye off Afghanistan. The Iraq war that has caused 4300 U.S. troop deaths with tens of thousands of wounded and maimed for life.

    And "Bring 'em on" Bush never got bin Laden "dead or alive."

    September 27, 2009 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  15. geen

    yup...that's right...the Obama adminsitration is becoming to the Bush regime what Nixon became to the Johnson regime....a war loving, a war escalating machine! anyone with a modicum of sense and an understanding of history realizes that this adventure will end in disaster and I can only wonder where these people...obama, gates, clinton, congress, senate...learned their lessons, or, if they did, want to so admantly repeat them....It is evident that they don't read history, but I would strongly recommend that, before they escalate these wars as they are apparently hell-bent on doing, they read Robert Fisk's War on Civilizatiion to provide the insights and wisdom they so severely lack. Instead of sending more troops to the meat grinder that is afghanistan, instead of, once again threatening world peace (against Iran), they should educated themselves. I drink my coffee in the morning. I go to that wonderful site which, if the Obama regime like the moron's regime which preceded it knew about would probably try to silence it, and see, each morning, where another -6 americans have been blown apart by IED's....for no other reason than the fact that they are there. It is time to end this war...and, if you don't know how, fight to have the draft reinstated. I gurantee that the gutless and conwardly bas-–, in congress and elswhere, who support this quagmire, will come about their senses and end it poste haste.

    September 27, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  16. Sanguine

    The Afgan Elections have provided US with an escape with dignity; time to leave with a government in place.

    Things can and will go bad, whethwer our troops stay there or not. Just establish controls over future nuclear threat if Taliban takes control there; that is the real potential danger.

    Pashtuns are in Pakistan and Afganistan and they want their land. May be UN should carve out 3 countries in the region, Afganistan, Pakkhtunistan and Pakistan; and they should have their Commonwealth.

    September 27, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  17. Brett from Oriskany,VA

    Afghanistan was once called the graveyard of empires. Nothings changed. You can occupy it but you can't hold it. No one but a charismatic warrior or religious leader will be able ti unify its multi ethnic tribes.Only a massive influx of American troops can make a difference and the American public won't go for that. All this talk about arming and training the Afghans is pure fantasy, that strategy didn,t work in Vietnam or Iraq so why should it work in Afghanistan. This country has lost the anger generated by 9/11 and doesn't want to fight a war. We can't even decide whats to replace the World Trade Towers and battles over greed continue. We lost al Qaeda by fighting Saddam. In WW 2 we rebuilt the Pacific fleet and brought Germany and japan to their knees in less than 5 years. The real problem is what's happened to America

    September 27, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  18. theo

    It's funny to see Republican Senators talking about more troups to be send to Afganistan now. Did they had not a change to do this four years ago and pressure George W. Bush to do so. NowThey did not and now now they are concerned. The Russians could not beat the Taliban in 10 years . Did the USA not provide the weapons to the Taliban? Where were we.
    So can we really win the war and do we have to spend more money on them, while we have enough issues to spend the money on for example healthcare for the needy?

    I think that's the issue the President has to consider when a new decision is made. A war against terrorists can not be won with a conventional way, history has proven that to my opinion: read Vietman.

    So may be we have to think another way, rather than our old fashioned thinking according to our usual party lines.

    September 27, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  19. magicInMiami

    Franklin said:

    It doesn't make sense. War in Afghanistan was prior to War in Iraq. Going on 8 years. Why only now–under new Obama strategy, mind you–has it deteriorated to the point of increased casualties and possible defeat?

    I replied:

    Afghnistan has been deteriorating long before Obama. Bush and friends decided to ignore it, because Karzai was their hand-picked stooge. Now that Karzai and his government are truly being scrutinized the real problems are being addressed.

    It's sort of like Rumsfeld telling the US tax payer that training of Iraqi troops was going well, and over inflating numbers. Then coming back 6 years later, telling American tax payers that we needed more money to train more Iraqi troops.

    September 27, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  20. Jim Melo

    GOOD job were able to grab defeat from the jaws of victory. Soldiers are now being killed because of the new rules of engagement set by Obama. Four US soldier were killed the other day when their request for artillery was denied because of the new rules..They were told to wait for air support, which was 50 – 60 minutes out..The ETA for artillery was 3 minutes, but was turned down because of the new rules....Go Obama...Go to another country.

    September 27, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  21. Hugo

    Please do some fiscal research on blaming the Bush Administration for the huge deficit we are now realizing in our Nation. Lest we forget that during his Administration we were attacked on our own soil, second time in history. Invading Iraq perhaps was wrong, only history will tell as a democracy unfolds in the middle east. Is the deceit and lies being spun upon us now any different than the deceit and lies from the past? Washington is a politically corrupt high stakes chess match with the winner or losers debt passed on to the American people.

    In the first 50-days of his holding office, Obama spent 4 times the total amount of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The stimuless plan was nothing more than a pork barrel spending plan designed and written by the radical left Apollo alliance, the same group with Weatherman founder Jeff Jones and self avowed communist, Van Jones on its' board. This is just more politics from the Whitehouse to appease the far left spun at the cost of young service men and women lives.

    September 27, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  22. rick,miami,fl

    unemploiment and bankrupcy in the rise will force any administration to stop this prolonged war, for how long a country can hold this situation.

    September 27, 2009 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  23. Chris in NY

    Mike-It was perfectly reasonable for Pres. Clinton to seek a "peace dividend" after the Cold War. It was unreasonable for Pres GW Bush to use the military as though there had not been substantial groundforce reductions. It would seem to me that basic judgement has been lacking in the Republican Party for some time. Ashame really.

    September 27, 2009 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  24. Ray

    Our national strategy and policy making is done by civilians. The military is the instrument arm that carries those out. Our entire political system is a sham that can't do anything but point fingers and bail out corporations that fail. Is it any wonder that our national and international polices have been and will continue to be failures? The real losers here are the thousands of troops who will die why politicians lie to protect their politicl turf. Shameful. I'm a 28 year vet who is fed up.

    September 27, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  25. Rob Genadio

    Mike, I agree Clinton's cuts went too far, but considering that we had a Republican President for the following eight years (with a Republican congress for six of those years) you are politicizing the issue by automatically blaming "liberals." This is actually one issue where Americans from all sides need to unify.
    Those who murdered 2976 innocents eight years ago are determined to attack us again. Their operational base remains in Afghanistan and Pakistan, not only in the mountains but also in the fertile valleys. Leaving early would be idiocy: the Taliban would recover the freedom both to fund themselves with the world's greatest opium crop and to prepare new attacks.
    Unfortunately, this article is incorrect in stating it is just the Democrats who would "cut and run." In their fervor to blankly disagree with anything and everything our current commander-in-chief does, many Republicans are also calling for retreat. This is not only naive and premature of both parties, it is dangerous. This is politics at its worst.

    September 27, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
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