Wire: Gates Says Obama Afghan Decision Can't Wait
Off the Wire:
WASHINGTON, Oct. 20, 2009 -- Newswire services today reported that the United States cannot wait for problems surrounding the legitimacy of the Afghan government to be resolved before making a decision on troops, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said.
Gates, speaking to reporters on board a plane traveling to Tokyo, described the situation in Afghanistan as process that would not improve overnight, regardless of what course is taken following the country's contested August election.
"I see this as a process, not something that's going to happen all of the sudden," Gates said, the Reuters news service reported.
"I believe that the president will have to make his decisions in the context of that evolutionary process."(Report from newswire sources.)
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell added that Gates believed the issue of the Afghan government's legitimacy went well beyond the question of whoever would be declared winner of the election, or an eventual run-off.
It depended on whether the government in Kabul had the faith and confidence of the people, Morrell said.
International observers have called for an election run-off after a U.N.-backed fraud watchdog invalidated tens of thousands of votes for Afghan President Hamid Karzai from the August poll.
Another vote could be complicated by a strengthening Taliban insurgency that has tied up tens of thousands of foreign and Afghan troops and the approaching harsh Afghan winter that cuts off hundreds of villages every year.
Gates said he was confident U.S. and NATO forces could provide security for a run-off, should one be decided, but added bad winter weather could prevent Afghans from voting.
"I think the key consideration before us at this point is actually less [one of] security ... [it's] the weather. So getting something done before winter sets in will be very important," he said.
Source: U.S. decision can't wait for Afghan legitimacy: Gates