Gates Faults U.S. Allies on Afghan War

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates after a meeting of Defense Ministers at NATO HQ, March 10, 2011.

From Elisabeth Bumiller, the New York Times:  Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates sharply rebuked the United States’ allies on Friday for preparing to effectively abandon Afghanistan, threatening what he described as tenuous progress in the nearly decade-old war.

In a deliberately undiplomatic speech to NATO defense ministers, Mr. Gates called on European allies to put aside their domestic politics and work with the United States to secure the “semblance of normalcy” that he said was emerging in some parts of Afghanistan.

“Frankly, there is too much talk about leaving and not enough talk about getting the job done right,” Mr. Gates said. “Too much discussion of exit and not enough discussion about continuing the fight. Too much concern about when and how many troops might redeploy and not enough about what needs to be done before they leave.”

Mr. Gates made clear that the initial American troop withdrawals ordered for July by President Obama would be limited, perhaps to no more than several thousand troops. Pointedly, he told NATO that “we will not sacrifice the significant gains made to date, or the lives lost, for a political gesture. …”

Mr. Gates obliquely criticized NATO leaders for fueling a rush to the exits and what he said was undermining a commitment the allies made to Afghan security at a conference last year in Lisbon. “Unfortunately, some of the recent rhetoric coming from capitals on this continent is calling into question that resolve,” he said.  (photo: AP)

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