Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wire: Gates Says Taliban Now Have Momentum in Afghanistan

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, May 26, 2009 -- Newswire services reported this morning that American public support for the Afghan war will dissipate in less than a year unless the Obama administration achieves "a perceptible shift in momentum," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a CBS News interview.

Gates said the momentum in Afghanistan is now with the Taliban, who are inflicting heavy U.S. casualties and hold control over large areas of the country.

The Wall Street Journal, in an analysis piece, said the defense chief has been moving aggressively to salvage the war in Afghanistan, signing off on the deployments of 21,000 American military personnel and recently taking the unprecedented step of firing the four-star general who commanded all U.S. forces there. Mr. Gates, speaking in his cabin on an Air Force plane, said the administration is rapidly running out of time to turn around the war.

The Journal noted the following details:
"People are willing to stay in the fight, I believe, if they think we're making headway," he said. "If they think we're stalemated and having our young men and women get killed, then patience is going to run out pretty fast."

[. . .]

Mr. Gates also said Iran was harming U.S. interests in Afghanistan by sending weapons to the Taliban and other armed groups. He expressed particular concern that Tehran might step up its shipments of explosively formed penetrators, powerful roadside bombs capable of punching through even the strongest armor.

At the suggestion of some of his staff, Mr. Gates has begun referring to himself as the "secretary of war," saying that shows he and his department have no higher priority than the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The reality is we have two major wars going on and I feel that very strongly," he said. "That's what makes me impatient."
(Report from newswire sources.)

Sources: Gates Says Taliban Have Momentum in Afghanistan

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