Gates flails over Afghanistan


Richard Moore

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates sharply criticized NATO
countries yesterday for not supplying urgently needed
trainers, helicopters and infantry for Afghanistan as
violence escalates there...
    Gates called for overhauling the alliance's Afghan strategy
over the next three to five years, shifting NATO's focus
from primarily one of rebuilding to one of waging "a classic
counterinsurgency" against a resurgent Taliban and growing
influx of al-Qaeda fighters.

Gates talks about overhauling strategy over the 'next three to five years'. If 
it takes that long to set strategy, how long of a war is he anticipating? It 
begins to sound more like a perpetual occupation than any kind 'set things 
right' operation. Could it be that the European leaders are aware of this? Might
they have a brain or two amongst them?

Every since Desert Storm, the US has been seeking to establish a global regime 
of aggressive imperialism, and it has sought to drag as many allies as possible 
into the program. Britain of course can always be counted on, as the US and 
Britain have since 1923 been linked together by a very profitable oil cartel 
partnership. Britain is an island, not really part of Europe. Europe has 
vacillated this way and that, staying mostly out of Iraq, jumping wholeheartedly
into the destruction of Yugoslavia, and, as we see here, halfheartedly 
participating in the subjugation of Afghanistan.

Besides being a turning point re/Iran, I suggest that the NIE report ("Iran has 
no nukes program") is a more general turning point, a turning point with subtle 
but deep psychological implications. The US always tries to portray its 
imperialist activities as 'noble causes'. To the extent it gets by with this 
lie, and it often does, the US achieves international acquiescence and even 
cooperation. To the extent the lie is seen for what it is, the US finds itself 
in a much more difficult position. The NIE report, at a very critical time in 
world history, is being seen by many this way: "See, the US is nothing but a 
deceitful bully, and now they've admitted it themselves. They knew all along 
there was nothing to the allegations they've been bombarding us with, trying to 
get us to go after Iran."

I doubt very much if the NIE report itself will be 'present in people's 
thoughts' as they go about their business, as European leaders or whatever. But 
the subtle psychological shift caused by that report, at a time when everyone 
was fearing a nuclear holocaust over Iran, will linger at the back of European 
minds. Every time some American war monger like Gates tries to sell a program in
Europe, there will be a cloud of skepticism, a perception, at least  partial, of
being in the presence of a snake oil salesman.


Original source URL:

Pentagon Critical Of NATO Allies
Gates Faults Efforts In Afghanistan
By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 12, 2007; A01

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates sharply criticized NATO countries yesterday 
for not supplying urgently needed trainers, helicopters and infantry for 
Afghanistan as violence escalates there, vowing not to let the alliance "off the

Gates called for overhauling the alliance's Afghan strategy over the next three 
to five years, shifting NATO's focus from primarily one of rebuilding to one of 
waging "a classic counterinsurgency" against a resurgent Taliban and growing 
influx of al-Qaeda fighters.

"I am not ready to let NATO off the hook in Afghanistan at this point," Gates 
told the House Armed Services Committee. Ticking off a list of vital 
requirements -- about 3,500 more military trainers, 20 helicopters and three 
infantry battalions -- Gates voiced "frustration" at "our allies not being able 
to step up to the plate."

The defense secretary's public scolding of NATO, together with equally forceful 
testimony yesterday by Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of 
Staff, put on display the growing transatlantic rift over the future of the 
mission in Afghanistan. The Bush administration over the last year has 
increasingly bristled at what it sees as NATO's overly passive response to the 
Taliban, but European leaders have repeatedly rebuffed entreaties by Gates and 
President Bush to do more.

In recent months, officials said, Bush and his advisers have grown more 
concerned about the situation in Afghanistan; in contrast to Iraq, violence is 
on the rise there and the U.S.-led coalition is struggling to adjust to changing
conditions on the ground. As the White House reviews its Afghanistan policy, 
officials have concluded that wide-ranging strategic goals set for 2007 have not
been met, despite tactical combat successes.

The United States provides about 26,000 troops in Afghanistan and has the lead 
combat role in the eastern part of the country, and U.S. Special Operations 
forces operate throughout the country. NATO provides most of the remaining 
28,000 foreign troops, and British, Canadian, Australian and Dutch forces play 
key combat roles in southern Afghanistan, where violence has surged over the 
past year.

Bush extended the deployment of one brigade and sent another additional brigade 
to Afghanistan earlier this year to get a handle on the situation. But senior 
U.S. military officials have privately voiced concern that Afghanistan is 
regressing under a NATO command they describe as dysfunctional. If the United 
States wants success there, they have said, it may have to increase its military
commitment again.

"How long do we continue to watch this thing?" asked one senior official, who 
spoke on the condition of anonymity. "There is a desire to keep the heat on NATO
and see if they will pony up the resources." But he added: "If they aren't 
willing to do that," the United States may have to change its policy.

Violence is up significantly in Afghanistan this year, Mullen said, citing 
previously undisclosed figures that attacks are up 27 percent overall -- 
including a 60 percent spike in the southern province of Helmand, where the 
Taliban resurgence is strongest. Suicide bombings, roadside bombs, and other 
tactics common in Iraq have increased, Gates said.

Meanwhile, cross-border attacks continue from Taliban and al-Qaeda sanctuaries 
in Pakistan. Some weapons and financing are flowing in from Iran as well, 
although Gates said Iran's role is not as yet "decisive."

Gates had previously urged NATO to fulfill its commitments to provide troops and
equipment, and he urged more flexibility in deploying them. But yesterday's 
testimony was particularly pointed -- coming the day before he leaves for 
Scotland for a meeting of defense ministers from countries with troops in 
southern Afghanistan.

Mullen echoed Gates on NATO's shortcomings in Afghanistan in his testimony 
before the committee.

"What seems to be growing is a classic insurgency. It requires a 
well-coordinated counterinsurgency strategy, fully supported by security 
improvements," Mullen said. But he said the NATO-led International Security 
Assistance Force (ISAF) command is "plagued by shortfalls in capability and 
capacity, and constrained by a host of caveats that limit its ability."

Pressed by lawmakers on whether the United States should not shift more of its 
military resources to Afghanistan, Gates and Mullen held firm, saying Iraq 
remains the overarching priority for stretched U.S. forces.

"In Afghanistan, we do what we can. In Iraq, we do what we must," Mullen said. 
"There is a limit to what we can apply to Afghanistan."

Gates said that after extending the tour of a brigade of 3,500 troops from the 
10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan this year, and also keeping a helicopter 
contingent in Kandahar for six extra months, he is not inclined to do more now.

"I have refused to extend our helicopter cut . . . to ISAF beyond the end of 
January," Gates said.

Gates later qualified his criticism by praising British, Canadian and Australian
forces, which he said have "more than stepped up" in combat roles. "We should 
not use a brush that paints too broadly in terms of speaking of our allies and 
friends," he said.

One of the most pressing needs in Afghanistan is for about 3,500 additional 
trainers for the Afghan police, a force that Gates said suffers from "corruption
and illiteracy." Because the European Union did not come through, he said, the 
United States has had to divert some U.S. trainers from the Afghan army to the 
police. Mullen confirmed that the United States has approved an increase in the 
manpower goal of the Afghan army from 70,000 to 80,000, creating a need for the 
additional U.S. trainers.

"The European effort on the police training has been, to be diplomatic . . . 
disappointing," Gates said.

In a separate interview, one senior military official pointed to a vivid symbol 
of the disappointment over NATO's unfulfilled promises. Behind the desk of U.S. 
Gen. Dan K. McNeill, who commands the ISAF in Afghanistan, is a framed matrix 
showing all the countries that have offered to provide security and other 
resources in Afghanistan, with the significant gaps highlighted in color.

"It isn't pretty, and it isn't changing," one official said of the chart. 
"What's the problem? We're looking for trainers."

Another source of conflict is counternarcotics strategy. Gates said the United 
States was all but alone in advocating aerial spraying of Afghan poppy crops, 
which he said produce about 90 percent of the world's opium -- most of which 
goes to markets in Europe.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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