Bob Gates Is Not a Patient Man
In an internal 2003 memo, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously warned that the struggle against terrorism would be a “long, hard slog.” His successor, Bob Gates, viewed that as an excuse for tolerating a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and Iraq. He tells Julian Barnes of The Los Angeles Times that the United States doesn’t have the luxury of patience in Afghanistan:
Gates said that victory was a “long-term prospect” under any scenario and that the U.S. would not win the war in a year’s time. However, U.S. forces must begin to turn the situation around in a year, he said, or face the likely loss of public support.
“After the Iraq experience, nobody is prepared to have a long slog where it is not apparent we are making headway,” Gates said in an interview. “The troops are tired; the American people are pretty tired.”
This represents something of a warning notice to Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who said at his confirmation hearing that he wouldn’t know for a year whether U.S. strategy needed to be amended, a statement he reiterated last month. And when it comes to the debate on whether McChrystal ought to make recommendations with a mind to the Obama administration’s reluctance to further increase the troop footprint, Gates had this to say:
“I did not want either [McChrystal or Gen. David Petraeus] to feel constrained in making their recommendations,” Gates said. “That is not to say we will accept all of their recommendations.”
Since January, Gates has been a skeptic of adding many more U.S. troops to the Afghanistan fight than the Obama administration has already deployed.