[Marxism] Obama administration prepared for escalation in Afghanistan

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Dec 11 08:44:55 MST 2008


NY Times, December 12, 2008
In Afghanistan, Gates to Talk of Troop Increases
By ELISABETH BUMILLER

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Defense secretary Robert M. Gates said here on 
Thursday that the Pentagon, which plans to send 20,000 additional troops 
to Afghanistan, was trying to get thousands of the additional combat 
forces into the country as soon as next spring, a sign of the 
seriousness of the threat facing the United States against the Taliban.

The soldiers were requested by Gen. David D. McKiernan, the top 
commander in Afghanistan. The first of them, about 3,500 to 4,000 troops 
from the Third Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum, 
N.Y., are scheduled to arrive next month.

Mr. Gates said he hoped to deploy an additional two combat brigades in 
Afghanistan by the spring as part of an effort to combat growing 
violence and chaos in the country. He declined to name the specific 
units. Pentagon officials have said it would take 12 to 18 months 
overall to get all 20,000 American troops to Afghanistan.

Both Mr. Gates and General McKiernan said on Thursday that there would 
be a “sustained commitment” of American troops in Afghanistan for the 
next three to four years, although they declined to put a number on that 
commitment.

The additional 20,000 troops will increase the number of American troops 
in Afghanistan to about 58,000 from the current level of 34,000. Neither 
Mr. Gates nor General McKiernan gave any indication that that number was 
likely to be reduced soon, meaning American force levels could remain 
that high in Afghanistan through much of the first term of 
President-elect Barack Obama.

Mr. Gates, who is stay on as Mr. Obama’s Defense Secretary, arrived here 
early Thursday on an unannounced trip to a regional military base for 
international forces in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, the 
ideological centre of gravity for the Taliban.

Earlier, Mr. Gates told reporters on his plane en route to Kandahar, 
that the planned drawdown of some troops from Iraq in January had 
enabled the military to begin sending additional forces to Afghanistan.

But while he outlined the United States’ commitment, he was critical of 
NATO for allowing the United States to share a disproportionate share of 
the burden of the war in Afghanistan.

“NATO is a military alliance, not a talk shop,” Mr. Gates told reporters.

Mr. Obama vowed repeatedly during the campaign to send thousands of 
additional troops to Afghanistan, which he declared the central front in 
the war against terrorism. His call for more troops here was consistent 
with the views of top commanders, although Mr. Gates made clear that the 
new administration’s military policy in Afghanistan is far from settled.

“But I have not heard anybody talking about forces beyond those that 
General McKiernan has already requested,” said Mr. Gates, who has been 
in recent conversations with Mr. Obama and in meetings with the 
president-elect’s transition team. “And I think that’s a discussion that 
the new administration will have as we look to the future.”

Mr. Gates said that his view would be to accelerate the growth of the 
Afghan army, particularly as the United States increases its military 
presence in the country.

“The history of foreign military forces in Afghanistan, when they have 
been regarded by the Afghan people as there for their own interests, and 
as occupiers, has not been a happy one,” Mr. Gates said. “And the 
Soviets couldn’t win in Afghanistan with 120,000 troops. And they 
clearly didn’t care about civilian casualties. So I just think we have 
to think about the longer term in this. I think we’re going to be in 
this struggle for quite a long time, and I think we have to make sure 
we’ve got some of the basics right.”

Mr. Gates said he had talked on the telephone with Mr. Obama since they 
first met in Washington on Nov. 10 and that the conversations since then 
have largely focused on personnel, including who will assume the top 
jobs under Mr. Gates at the Pentagon.

“It’s a dialogue,” he said. “I do not have specific candidates for 
specific jobs, and so they’re providing me with names and I’m giving 
them feedback.” Mr. Gates added that he would interview all prospects 
for senior-level positions and make recommendations to Mr. Obama. “I 
guess the way I would leave it is I believe I have substantial influence 
over those decisions, but if the president of the United States wants to 
appoint somebody to a job, nobody in the executive branch has a veto,” 
Mr. Gates said.

Mr. Gates also said there had been “some occasional awkwardness” as he 
makes the transition from one commander-in-chief to another. For 
example, he said, he has sometimes had to chose between attending what 
is known as a “principals”‘ meeting at the White House — a session with 
the secretaries of State, Treasury and other Cabinet members, without 
the president — or a session with Mr. Obama’s transition team.

“I haven’t missed any meetings with the president, let me put it that 
way,” Mr. Gates said. “But let’s just say that if I’m faced with a 
choice between attending a principals’ meeting on an issue that I think 
is not particularly hot and a meeting with the transition folks, I’ll 
opt for the latter.”

Before arriving in Kandahar, Mr. Gates made a brief stop at Manas Air 
Base in Kyrgyzstan, the main base for American air transport into 
Afghanistan. In remarks to American troops there, Mr. Gates said that 
the scope and size of their mission would change in the months to come.

“The final decision will be made by the next president, but a consensus 
has emerged that more troops are needed,” Mr. Gates said, cautioning 
that “success in Afghanistan will not come easily or quickly.”

In response to a question, Mr. Gates also said that because the U.S. was 
at war in two countries, he anticipated “continued support for a pretty 
robust defense budget” in the next administration.

“I may be whistling past the graveyard here but I think that we’re not 
likely to see significant cuts,” he said, adding to applause that “the 
defense budget at the end of the day is a pretty impressive stimulus for 
the economy.”




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