December 8th, 2009
10:01 AM ET

Gates makes unannounced visit to Afghanistan

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is traveling with the U.S. military all week in Afghanistan and reports on U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates' unannounced visit to the country.  Gates arrived in Afghanistan on Tuesday, a week after President Barack Obama announced he was sending 30,000 additional troops to the central Asian nation. Gates met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, as well as other American military officials on the unannounced visit.

Starr talks with CNN Radio's John Lisk on the reception Gates has received so far from Karzai and the U.S. troops, the winter weather's effect on his travel and how the troops are reacting to the Obama strategy announcement.

soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Art

    Did Mr.Gates bring the "cash suitcase" with him. Shameful policy.

    December 9, 2009 at 8:27 am | Report abuse |
  2. Tariq Asam

    prism to see the rest of world. However, Obama’s current Afghan Policy (the surge) goes counter to this vision. Longer the war drags on – and it will – the more difficult it would to change the course and pursue other means to contain the enemy, not yet clearly defined and understood. Obama has confused his political base by signing on to the surge strategy. At the same time, he has antagonized his adversaries by putting a withdrawal deadline.

    He has also given Pakistanis a wake-up call to rethink about their life after the US withdrawal and has encouraged our opponents, both Al-Qaeda and Taliban, to lay low for a while. His failure to acknowledge that victory in the Afghan war, as it is currently being defined, is not achievable and his failure to advocate a more tactical – and face saving – approach to the conflict will greatly undermine his other global and domestic policy initiatives.

    I believe that Obama is heading for trouble in the Afghan war. He, supposedly being a smarter president than Bush 43, should have realized that 8 years of war has not brought us any significant success, however defined. As we all know, it is not the lack of our fighting resolve or money that is to blame for this mirage. The trouble lies in the following facts:

    1) The US has not defined or understood its enemy well. It not clear if the elimination of Al-Qaeda, Taliban, capturing Bin Laden, dismantling the terrorist infrastructure, or all of the above are purposes of this war.

    2) Afghans being fundamentally a tribal society have many power points than just the government and forging a lasting truce is idealistic at best.

    3) The loyalties of tribal lords are continuously shifting which make it impossible to forge dependable and lasting alliances.

    4) The war lords are more interested in protecting their opium profits that helping the US or the Taliban for that matter. The US cannot afford to be Opium friendly in order to fight against the other enemies.

    5) The corrupt Karzai government can never be effective in building its own security capabilities.

    6) Training Afghan security forces may be another name for training your enemies. No one knows, how many of these troops will stay loyal to the Karzai government and how many are conveniently being trained on behalf of the war lords.

    7) Pakistan, India and Iran are playing complex roles in the Afghan politics. Iran and India oppose Sunni-Pashtoons whom Pakistan supports. These Pashtoons are also theTaliban and Al-Qaeda supporters. Pakistan will not completely destroy its only partner under any pressure. They know that without the Pashtoons, Afghanistan would become pro-India, and perhaps pro-Iran, a possibility Pakistan cannot afford.

    8) Fighting the Taliban and Al-Qaeda only in Afghanistan is an exercise in futility. Unless Pakistan becomes a full willing partner in fighting the common nemesis, the surge is doomed at inception.

    It is my conjecture that two years from now we will be revisiting the war strategies and – hopefully at that time – will be devising a more realist approach to achieve a more focused objective.

    Obama never had any friends in the GOP and now he is upsetting Democrats with his Afghan war agenda. Whoever advised him about shunning the Iraq war and continuing the Afghan war was not really thinking of winning it but to sending a message that Obama is tough on terrorism. Fear still sells in politics. The trouble lies with not in the commitment to fighting terrorism but fighting it through an escalated and prolonged Afghan war.
    History is likely to repeat itself there once more.

    December 8, 2009 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |