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. proamerican

    I know, lets actually get something for our troubles. When we defeated Japan, we never left. I thought the whole point of invading Iraq was to secure one of the worlds largest oil reserves so China and the Russia couldn't continue to get in there and strangle us by controlling the oil. I thought at the very minimum, we'd at least maintain a huge air base there so the next time we needed to launch a big campaign we didn't have to beg stupid little countries like Turkey to let us use theirs. But no, after the bleeding hearts of the the USA got done with it, we not only don't even get reimbursed for our expense with Iraq oil, but we don't even get to get a large air base to launch or hold Iran in check!
    Why don't we use Afghanistan as a base to launch against Iran to stop their stupid nuclear bases and probably stop a lot of the trouble they are exporting into Afghanistan and keep us close to Pakistan which is a nuclear time bomb, just waiting to happen and keep us close to Iraq to keep Syria and USSR in check there.
    Whatever happen to when you conquer a country, you get to keep it?

    September 27, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  2. John

    The expensive and big wars (10s of thousands of causualties) come from miscalculations and wrongly signaling your enemies. So, let's review the 20th Century-

    WWI Wilson (Dem)- 175K dead
    WWII Roosevelt (Dem)- 256K Dead
    Korea Truman (Dem)- 34K Dead
    Vietnam- Kennedy/Johnson (Dems)- 58K dead

    Nice body counts Dems- your patsy administrations leave a heavy toll in their wake!

    September 27, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  3. Bill, TX

    Forget about what the Bush administration did. If it was a mistake going into Iraq, it was a mistake. What we have to deal with is now, and the generals who have experience in this war are asking for more troops. Who would know better what to do than the people working most intimately with the situation or someone with Obamas vast experience in military and war prosecution affairs? I'm sure he believes that he does. Isn't it funny that the main, absolute no. 1 job of the president is to handle foreign affairs and be the head of the military and he is prancing around doing interviews about health care and the environment? I'm not laughing. Then, in a particularly rookie mistake (actually kindergarten age), he pulls the rug out from under the Israeli/Palestinian peace talks by trying to back Israel into a corner!!! Like that is going to happen? Where is his sense of reality?

    September 27, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  4. kellen

    everyone knows that bush screwed Afghanistan up by shifting the focus to iraq. thats a fact and we cannot do anything about it. now its time to focus on the real issue, the only issue, and that is Afghanistan. that being said, we HAVE TO DO WHATEVER IT TAKES to win this one. just because other people have failed in Afghanistan doesnt mean that we will follow suit. However, if we do not supply our military with the personnel and equipment that they need (like bush did) we WILL lose.

    September 27, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  5. kg in okiehoma

    We have reached 1984's endless war? Leave Afganistan now – leave a few drones behind.

    September 27, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  6. Marven

    problem in afghanistan is of course in part due to abundant lack of jobs. many of them are opium farmers, but america doesn't seem to like that and wants them to grow things like wheat and corn. problem is, infrastructure is next to non-existent so ability to get the water required for a wheat field is severely limited. beyond that, taliban pays more for opium than they would get from a stunted crop of wheat.

    however, to really help the situation on the ground, a drug company needs to set up a facility to process opium for the legal drugs it also is an ingredient of. people who are working will have less time to be part of the taliban. and especially if they can see for themselves that taliban is spreading untruths. and offer the farmers a price for their crops that is mildly higher than taliban pays the farmers. in this way, the farmers will not have to rely on water resources that do not exist to grow a meager crop and also will not have to risk getting the one crop they can grow profitably seized.

    September 27, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  7. Mike (VA)

    It's funny that Republicans favor sending more troops, regardless of cost, and without a stated objective for the war.

    The next time CNN interviews a Republican senator that favors sending more troops, the reporter/anchor should ask why we are fighting in Afghanistan, and what will determine when we win.

    September 27, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  8. Bob Jones

    Simple study of the art of war will say be quick. It takes too much to keep an army away from home.

    September 27, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  9. Bill, TX

    To Mr. Bulcroft. Why don't we just let the military take care of the situation like they know how? Are you an expert? Why don't we take care of all of Afghanistan now instead oh having to go back? Why wouldn't we win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people, get the set up in a real democracy and way of life that rids their population of the desire to commit terrorism? That is what the military is trying to do!! How much of our money is going to rebuild the twin towers? How often do you want to spend that kind of money? Where will the decent Afghan people be if we leave now? How will Al-Queda and the Taliban treat them? What will they and the rest of the world think of us? Are you true to your word or do you say you will do one thing then do another? What do your friends thing of that?

    September 27, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  10. Lans

    How about considering this:

    Clinton: "US military interventions in Haiti, Bosnia, Iraq, and Kosovo not only resulted in clear cut victory for stated American policy goals it did it without the loss of life of military personnel in combat. "

    Bush: "mission accomplished" in Iraq

    For all the criticism from conservatives, liberals actually have record to back them up.

    I still think terrorists are winning because we are still acting out of fear rather than rational thought. "Terrorism is the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion." We are being manipulated to fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, allowing torture, rid of habeas corpus and due process for people merely suspected of being terrorists, etc. I don't believe this would have been tolerated pre-9/11 but it is now because scared out of their minds and believe that these diversion from the plain truth will protect us.

    No, these wars will not protect us. Better border patrol, security at airports and other government buildings, tighter control on guns and other flammable materials, better background checks, etc will. Wars and torture will only bleed more terrorist. When you have been wronged, you want revenge and justice but when your enemy is so strong and powerful, you turn to dity tactics like terrorism as that is your only means to exact revenge and seek justice.

    What we need to show is not just how strong we are but strong and can take punches like Muhammad Ali's rope a dope.

    September 27, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  11. x-rev

    I liked the comment posted to Mike that asked him to "join up" if he felt the military is weak. That seems to be the answer both sides of the argument want to make. Yet I see one real flaw with this thinking. Let me try try to explain in simple english.

    What is the cost of losing one american soldier in combat? Would you be willing to sacrifice $1000 a year of your salary to help save one life? What if you thought it was going to be someone who you knew persoanally? Maybe you would choose to pay $2000 more just to save that persons life?

    Now how would we pay for that? OMG, don't ever mention the word "Tax" because that is like being shot in the foot. Why is it that we all say a life is priceless, and we need to win this war, and yet we all sit at home and threaten any person who would dare to say we should have to sacrifice money in order to save a life... or several thousand lives.

    Bush started a war, and cut taxes. Message to the country... we can win this war without personal sacrifice. Do all of you really believe this? Do not tell me you want our country to be strong, and be able to protect us if you are not able to put up the dollars to do so. You are a hypocrite if you believe this.

    Republicans, if you want more troops, then do the reasonable thing and admit tax's must be raised to support this effort.

    Democrates, grow a spine and stop worrying about being re-elected and think about how to save american lives.

    What are really willing to sacrifice America? So far the reality is that we all give lip service to our troops and country, but an overwhelming percentage of the electorate say "not at my expense." Is that really American?

    September 27, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  12. lindh

    The idea that the US can win in Afghanistan is amusing but ludicrous.

    The only solution to Afghanistan is to buy the war lords who most closely represent an anti-Taliban position, pay them and their troops sufficiently, buy them good arms and ammunition and pay bounties.
    The result would be a perpetual civil war in Afghanistan and Pakistan but would get the US out.

    This solution will eventually be followed so why not do it now?

    September 27, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  13. jfz

    Obama "explores his options and considers the long term ramifications of a decision" because he doesn't have a clue and needs to delay things while hoping issues go away.
    Defense Secretary Robert Gates echoes Obama’s "deliberative" approach by talking much and saying little, also hoping every current crisis goes away.

    September 27, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  14. Lasky

    How does someone start out a sweet infant and end up a war monger? No matter how you cut it, war is murder and murder is evil. It's sad to see so many war mongering christians who live in fear and not in love and truth.

    September 27, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  15. Paul

    Stop with the "Bush lied" BS already. I'm not a big fan of Bush, but everybody from the Clinton Administration to Congress to the UN to intelligence agencies across the world believed that credible evidence existed re Iraq's WMD's. This was not new information fabricated by the Bush Administration; it was simply information that nobody acted upon in a serious manner previously; he was willing to back up the threats made to the madman Hussein by the UN. Congress had access to the same intelligence that the Administration had; if they didn't believe it, they shouldn't have authorized the use of force in Iraq. If it was in fact a mistake to get rid of Hussein, then it was Congress, not simply our President, who was at fault. When casting a vote such as that, you don't simply listen to the Administration's recommendation, you read the facts (or at least have your staff do the work for you) and then you cast your vote based upon a thorough assessment of the facts and the pros and cons of voting either way. That's the job of an elected official in our representative democracy, something not enough of them do properly on a regular basis.

    September 27, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    These are the most ignorant comments I have ever seen.

    September 27, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  17. vence

    I believe that part of the answer is in History. The rest is in our hearts, and the wrong is in the politicians.

    September 27, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  18. Brad

    I believe Iraq completly stagnated the 'War on Terror' and when Bush called the 'War on Terror' a 'crusade' we already lost the war against terror because if you invade two Muslim countries and use the word 'crusade' you already lost the support of the Muslim people.

    September 27, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  19. RickyL


    The Chinese bide their time while the Americans fritter away whatever advantages they may have enjoyed since WWII.

    September 27, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  20. Dean

    I am so glad that absolutely *none* of the posters on these blogs (Fox included) are officials in the administration. One thing that liberals/conservatives, Republicans/Democrats, women/men, young/old all have in common... they spout completely ignorant comments and think they actually know something.

    September 27, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  21. victim of republican greed

    The right wingnuts have a "kill'em all, and let God sort it out" attitude.

    As for body counts:
    those who die each year because they have no health care:
    2001 45,000 Bush (R)
    2002 " "
    2003 " "
    2004 " "
    2005 " "
    2006 " "
    2007 " "
    2008 " "

    September 27, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  22. Sean

    The problem with Afghanistan is hiding in Pakistan. What we need in Afghanistan is to change tactics and get soldiers out of vehicles and camps and using patrol-based infantry tactics, loosing hunter-killer teams that live on the ground they intend to hold. You take away the Taliban's ability to control, claim, roam the hinterlands by doing what the Rhodesian Selous Scouts/Light Infantry and the South African Defense Forces did in the Bush Wars in southern Africa–hunt them, track them, kill them mercilessly. Let the Afghan forces hold the villages and police the roads and brave the IEDs on the roads.

    I would seek out former soldiers and officers from the Bush Wars, fire most of the commanders in NATO forces for not having the balls to challenge the asinine tactics and resources they've had to use for 8 years. If you want more troops, stick them all on the Afghan/Pakistani border, or better yet, tell Pakistan if they don't get control of their tribal regions where AQ and Taliban hide that we'll do it for them with a few tactical nukes. We can win, but too many people are weaklings and cowards and bleeding hearts, not least American politicians–starting with Obama and the Democratic Congress. Show me one commander of the ancient world from Hannibal to Alexander to Caesar who wouldn't use nukes but instead waste the lives of thousands of men and leave an entire generation scarred and maimed by war?

    It's a lie that you can't win a war on terrorism. You can. You won't, however, fighting it as we do...half-heartedly. Make it too costly for the terrorists and those who support them. A few small artillery delivered nukes wouldn't destroy anything but those terrorists and the hate-filled tribes that support them, their hideouts and supply routes. Better yet, we ought to also threaten to nuke Mecca/Medina. We don't need more troops, we just need leaders that aren't cowards and put the welfare, security and safety of Americans ahead of the frigging terrorists and their supporters, accomplices, financiers and religion.

    September 27, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  23. Realist

    If you think Obama can "hide" from this issue until it "goes away," you're dreaming. Stupidity and willful ignorance will bring us down from within. Formulate your opinions based on facts, please. Too many Americans are dismissing Obama too early. Get used to the war in Afganistan: My Army artillery instructor buddy is slated to begin a new mission there–in 2012. I promise you, we won't be leaving there for a long, long time. Perhaps we wouldn't be in this jam if the tunnel-vision neocons hadn't overcommitted our military with poor strategies. It sure as hell isn't Obama's fault.

    September 27, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  24. Chas

    Question: How many liberals out there have read the testimony of General Georges Sada, the Vice- Air Marshal of Saddam Hussein? The general sat at all the military briefings in Iraq that Hussein held from the early 1990's until his ouster. He verified that Hussein ordered Iraqi planes to fly WMD's in an attack on Israel during the Kuwaiti war. The plan was canceled only because of the council realized that the Iraqi planes could not penetrate Israeli airspace because of the Israeli's superior radar,
    Please read more and not just articles that support your views. Please also try to write with some proficiency. There is such things as capital letters and sentences.

    September 27, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  25. K.M.Joseph

    I think the Russians, the U.S. and China should take on al-Queda and the Taliban. While the terrorists have eyes on the U.S. and Europe at the moment, make no mistake that they will eventually turn to Russia with a vengeance and China as well.

    September 27, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
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