Wire: Gates Defends Review of Obama Afghan Strategy, Denies Rift
Off the Wire:
WASHINGTON, Sept. 27, 2009 -- Newswire services today reported U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates denied Sunday that a rift exists between the Obama administration and America's military commanders on how to proceed in Afghanistan. The secretary's remarks came after a report by the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan calling for additional troops was reportedly leaked, then declassified by the White House for the press last week.
VOA News said Gen. Stanley McChrystal's stark assessment of deteriorating security conditions in Afghanistan has yet to be formally presented to President Barack Obama. But it is already driving debate on the future of America's mission in Afghanistan.
McChrystal's leaked report makes an urgent case for additional U.S. troops in Afghanistan, warning that the mission could fail in a year without more resources. But President Obama is insisting on a new, comprehensive review of American strategy before making any decisions on further deployments to Afghanistan. Mr. Obama already has sent an additional 21,000 U.S. service members to the country.Gates spoke on ABC television's This Week program. He added that a strategy review is timely, coming after Afghanistan's contested national election, and that failure to carry out the review would endanger U.S. forces.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates says there is no rift between President Obama and U.S. military commanders, and that General McChrystal has voiced support for the strategy review.
"General McChrystal was very explicit in saying he thinks this assessment, this review that is going on right now, is exactly the right thing to do," said Gates. "He obviously does not want it to be open-ended."
However, some observers see the review as an indication that the current Obama Afghan strategy fell short in planning for the hardening insurgency.
Appearing on another U.S. television program, Gates said that an early U.S. exit from Afghanistan would be a "mistake," and that allowing the Taliban and al-Qaida to emerge victorious in the country would have, in his words, "catastrophic consequences."
As a presidential candidate and now as president, Obama has described the U.S. mission in Afghanistan as one of necessity, to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States and its allies.
More recently, Obama has said that U.S. "victory" is not necessarily the goal in Afghanistan.
(Report from newswire sources.)