September 2nd, 2010
08:15 AM ET

Gates arrives in Afghanistan

[Update 10:25 a.m. ET] Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military man in Afghanistan, said initial approaches to some Taliban members as part of a reconciliation initiative have shown promise and could help resolve the conflict in the country.  Petraeus, who heads the U.S. and NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, spoke to reporters after greeting U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who arrived in the war-torn country Thursday to consult with political and military officials.

[Original post] U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, citing some headway in Afghanistan, arrived in the war-torn country Thursday to consult with political and military officials.

Gates will meet Thursday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Gen. David Petraeus, who leads U.S. and NATO-led forces in Afghanistan. The visit comes ahead of this month's Afghan parliamentary elections.

His trip comes a day after he visited Iraq, where he attended a change of command ceremony that marked the end of the U.S. combat mission there.

In remarks Tuesday at the annual convention of the American Legion, Gates tied the two conflicts together, saying that "with the invasion of Iraq, our attention - and our resources - were diverted."

"Afghanistan became a second-tier priority for troops, equipment, and security and development assistance. Starting in 2003, the Taliban regrouped, refilled their ranks, re-constituted themselves in safe havens and re-entered Afghanistan. Violence began to increase significantly in 2005 and has grown worse ever since," he said at the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, conference.

He reiterated President Obama's point that more resources can be allocated to Afghanistan now that the Iraq conflict is winding down.

"Today, for the first time in nine years, we now have the resources - the troops and equipment, military and civilian - needed for this fight," Gates said and the "full complement of surge forces" is only now being reached.

"The total international military commitment, when fully deployed, will reach approximately 150,000 - more than three times the number when I became defense secretary going on four years ago - including some 45,000 troops from our NATO allies and other partners. This dramatic increase in military capability is amplified by a tripling of deployed civilians and a substantial influx of trainers."

Gates said there is "slow but steady headway" in helping Afghans assume security responsibility.

"General Petraeus has worked with President Karzai to develop a plan for locally recruited forces that will be accountable to the central government, but will also give local communities the means to defend themselves," he said.

He stressed that the beginning of a transition to Afghan control in July doesn't mean a swift withdrawal and said troops will be proactive in attacking the Taliban after that time.

"As in Iraq, our drawdown will be gradual and conditions-based, accompanied by a build-up of military assistance and civilian development efforts," he said. "If the Taliban really believe that America is heading for the exits next summer in large numbers, they will be deeply disappointed and surprised to find us very much in the fight."

Gates said more than 350 Taliban commanders have been slain or captured the past three months as troops try to oust them from their enclaves and take hold of "key population centers."

This year has been the deadliest for U.S. troops in the Afghan war, and Gates said "it will a tough, hard campaign, with setbacks and heartbreak."

"The fact that we knew that our losses would increase as the fight was brought to the enemy makes them no easier to bear. The intensifying combat and rising casualties is in many ways reminiscent of the early months of the Iraq surge, when our troops were taking the highest losses of the war," he said.

He said skepticism over Afghanistan mirrors that about Iraq a few years ago.

"Back then, this country's civilian and military leadership chose the path we believed had the best chance of achieving our national security objectives - as we are doing in Afghanistan today. Success there is not inevitable. But with the right strategy and the willingness to see it through, it is possible. And it is certainly worth the fight."

He also told the veterans that it was a "mistake 20 years ago" to abandon Afghanistan "after the Soviets were driven out." The Taliban came to power during the "power vacuum" and harbored the al Qaeda terror network that launched attacks around the world.

"As events have shown in New York, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, London, Madrid, Amman, Lahore, Bali, Jakarta, and elsewhere around the world - we were wrong," Gates said.

Filed under: Pentagon
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. bangash

    Every thing depends on intentions and this every one knew very well while for Mr Gate it is an open secret. If America of OBAMA has changed after his election on the slogan of CHANGE, then there is no justification in military approach in resolving this issue. Negotiated settlement is the only option which Karzai too support and see, the only way, to get out of this quagmire. Nine years blind use of military forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan has not contained terrorism but has rather extended to the rest of the world. His predecessor Mr Rumsfield had missed this opportunity in beginning when he rejected Karzai's deal with Mullah Umar for his peaceful surrender when Karzai assured him and his companions safety. Nine years history proved Karzai right and Rumsfield wrong. So Mr Gate there is no use of threatening language and seriously listen to Karzai as he is Afghan and knows how to deal with Afghans. Be sure leaving Afghanistan or further stay in, is no more your option therefore let Karzai pave the way for safe exit from Afghan quagmire.

    September 4, 2010 at 8:05 am | Report abuse |
  2. Smith in Oregon

    Gates is simply a bag man whose security planes are used to deliver Billions of American taxpayer dollars in cash to various members of the Karzai government, drug lords, war lords and even paying off the Taliban from attacking the US Military convoys carrying supplies into Afghanistan.

    Sure, Gates shows up, meets, greets and shakes various official's hands but the planes and security forces with him are carrying the huge pallets of freshly minted 100 dollar bills that are passed out by the sack full. Another happy day for utterly corrupt Afghanistan officials and their Dubai bankers, another sad day for millions of unemployed Americans and dozens of States that are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.

    Republican lawmakers are now pushing to LIMIT Veteran's Medical benefit's under the guise of 'helping' balance the budget! How disgusting are the Republican lawmakers trying to evolve into? Under the allegedly utterly depraved and corrupt Bush-Cheney Republican administration, Veteran's Medical facility's across America were woefully unable to deal with the extra 1 Million Veterans needing extensive Veteran's medical care and treatment from the Iraq and Afghanistan War's but Bush-Cheney pushed America and their Soldiers into both of those War's regardless. Now Republican lawmakers are throwing Veterans under the bus for serving multiple tours in those Wars by telling them to cut back on their Veteran's medical benefits!

    September 2, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. rodney lindsay

    Dear Mr. Gates

    You know all the JOKES about men not wanting to ask directions. The Taliban are SMUGGLERS (see Seeds Of Terror by Gretchen Peters). The conventional military are not experiences at combating smuggling but won't ask for non-military help. YOU need to recognize the Army needs to be supplemented by people with that skill set. It's important!

    September 2, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Daniel-2

    Dan,are you a Christian or not?If you are,you need to get rid of some of that hate.Hate never does anybody any good.

    September 2, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  5. warrior

    genral Stanley was right about all of this war.(included persons and strategy).

    September 2, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • dwight huth

      Whatever his opinion is,we need to negotiate with the Taliban and find a peaceful way of this obnoxious war.

      September 2, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  6. warrior

    generall stanley was right about all of this war.(included persons and strategy)

    September 2, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dan in Lafayette,IN

    Big Deal!!!

    September 2, 2010 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  8. Mike

    Hey Gates! Guess what?? We can't win.

    September 2, 2010 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Daniel-2

      Let's hope you're right,Mike.It seems that the only way we're going to leave there is by losing as we did in Vietnam.This war also stinks!!!

      September 2, 2010 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |