Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was critical of the failure on the part of Pakistan officials to take a more aggressive stance against the Taliban on the border areas of their country. He claimed there had been a 40% rise in violence along the east Afghanistan border during the first five months of this year. Gates said “it is a matter of concern, of real concerns and I think that one of the reasons that we’ve seen the increase…is more people coming across the border from the frontier areas.” He blamed the ability of Taliban forces to readily cross over into Afghanistan on “not being under any pressure from the Pakistan side of the border.” Gates believed the situation began to change when Pakistan officials initiated talks with Taliban leaders for a peaceful resolution of the violence in the frontier areas.
Gates ignored that seven years have passed since the Taliban were over thrown in Afghanistan, seven years of inept military policies most probably hampered by diverting forces to Iraq instead of completing the job in Afghanistan. Pakistan for years has been cooperating with coalition forces but the Taliban continue to grow in power. Why hasn’t the Afghanistan government been more effective? Why have seven years gone by without the emergence of an Afghan army that can deal with its own security? It is not all the fault of Pakistan, it is time for the Bush administration to own up to its own failures.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates urged military leaders to focus on current needs rather than speculating about possible future scenarios. “I have noticed too much of a tendency towards what might be called Next-War-itis– the propensity of much of the defense establishment to be in favor of what might be needed in future conflict.” He wants expensive futuristic weapons put on the shelf in order to focus on wars in Iraq and Afghansitan. He was particularly concerned about comments regarding over-extending American armed forces to such an extent the nation would not be able to handle future conflicts. “The risk of overextending the army is real. But I believe the risk is far greater–to that institution as well as to our country– if we were to fail in Iraq. That is the war we are in. That is the war we must win.”
In a sense, Secretary Gates raises important issues, but he continues the mistake of discussing the war in Iraq and Afghanistan in terms of “winning” and “losing” as though the United States is involved in a war with a recognized government. At present, the Bush administration does not have any concept as to what would constitute “victory.” These wars will not be “won” by military action, they will resolved through political and diplomatic actions. Gates discussed problems stemming from Iran supplying weapons to militants even though Iran has excellent relations with the current Iraq government. Engaging Iran on a diplomatic level is part of the solution, not the problem.
American and Turkish officials failed to reach an agreement as to when Turkey’s armed forces will be departing from Iraq. Yesterday, President Bush told a press conference, “Turkish troops sh ould withdraw from northern Iraq as soon as possible” while Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told Turkish officials in Anakara, “the U.S. believes the current offensive should be as short and precisely targeted as possible.” Turkish Chief of Staff Generl Yasar Buyukanit told Gates, “short term is a relative notion. Sometimes it is a day, sometimes a year.” He pointed out Turkey has been struggling with terrorism for 24 years and noted America has been in Afghanistan for six years.
Prime Minister Erdfogan insists “Turkish soldiers will be returning after achieving their goals” but will not pinpoint the exact time when that task will have been accomplished. On one hand, Gates accepts the complexity of the situation, on the other hand, the United States is protecting the integrity of the Iraqi government. Unfortunately, the two might not coincide in terms of a timetable for withdrawal.
Once again, the Bush administration is living with unintended and unexpected consequences of the ill fated invasion of Iraq. Most experts knew from day one of Bush’s actions to get rid of Saddam Hussein that an important result would be creation of a confusing situation in Kurdistan. Neither Bush, Cheney, nor Rumsfeld had any grasp as to what they were doing in terms of Turkey’s concern over creation of an independent Kurdistan state. Of course, neither did right wing pundits like Rush Limbaugh and the others who still insist the Iraq operation was the right move.
Posted in George Bush, Human Rights, Military, Peace, Politics, Turkey, Uncategorized, US Foreign Policy, War, World News
Tagged Bush, Gates, Kurdistan, PKK, Turkish invasion
The top American general in Afghanistan discounted stories about a growing insurgency in the nation and assured the world, things remain the same as always. As to the insurgency, General Dan McNeill, told reporters: “I think that it’s probably stayed the same as it was.” He claimed the only differernce is the presence of an additional eight or nine thousand more soldiers than previously which is probably what accounts for additional casualties. “We exposed ourselves to a lot more things than the force has exposed themselves to in times past. And, that, more than anything, created the increased levels of violence that are so often referred to in the news…there wasn’t a resurgent Taliban.”
On one hand, Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates is berating and scolding NATO allies for failure to dispatch more troops to Afghanistan, and General McNeill insists there is no surge in Taliban attacks. If we accept the McNeill thesis that more troops in the field result in more casualties, the answer is simple — reduce the number of troops in the field and the result will be fewer casualties. In fact, why not tell the Germans to go home. One is only left to wonder if commanders in the field ever communicate to Bush administration officials. Does Secretary Gates have any understanding how the words of General McNeill will be interpreted by German officials who are being criticised for not sending troops?
Posted in Asia, George Bush, Human Rights, Iraq War, Peace, Politics, United States, US Foreign Policy, War, World News
Tagged Afghanistan, Gates, General McNeill, Germany
Geman Chancellor Angela Merkel and senior members of her government flatly rejected a request by US secretary of Defense Robert Gates to send Bundeswehr combat troops to Taliban hotspots in Afghanistan. A Merkel spokesperson said the exting Afghanistan mandate is not open for discussion. On Friday morning, German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung rejected a call by Gates to send German troops to southern afghanistan where a Taliban-led insurgency has destabilized the area. The negative harping and critical tone of the Gates letter infuriated German leaders and made them even more certain to continue their present polciy of what Jung noted, “We need to keep our point of focus in northern Afghanistan.”
A Merkel spokesperson, Ulrich Wilhelm, made clear there were currently “no thoughts” about changing policy, a step that would require approval of the Bundestag. Wilhelm emphasized Gemany’s position has repeatedly been made clear to the United States and would not be subject to change.
The over-riding problem in Afghanistan is failure on the part of those fighting in that nation to agree on a long-term strategy. Militay action alone has failed to succeed in driving out the Taliban. There is need for vast economic and social changes if the Taliban are to be confronted in a successful manner. Part of the problem is that large sectors of Afghan society remain tribal and under the control of religious clerics whose views are closer to those of the Taliban than to Western allies. President Bush entered Afghanistan with vague desires to kill Osama bin Laden, but, as ususal, had no plan once the initial victory had been achieved. Until Secretary Robert Gates confronts that issue, asking for more troops is a dead end solution to failure.
Posted in Germany, Human Rights, Iraq War, Military, Peace, Politics, United States, US Foreign Policy, War, World News
Tagged Afghanistan, Bush, Gates, Germany
Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, sharply criticized NATO army chiefs for failure on the part of the European Union to make a substantial commitment to winning the war in Afghanistan. “In Afghanistan, a handful of allies are paying the price and bearing the burden. The failure to meet commitments puts the Afghan mission– and with it, the credibility of NATO at real risk.” There are currently 26,000 American and 23,000 NATO troops fighting in Afghanistan. He questioned why the world’s greatest military alliance is unable to defeat Afghan rebels, and particularly focused on failure of NATO to supply helicopters which has caused great strain on the American air force. His remarks drew little reaction from the generals in the audience who only gave him some polite applause.
Secretary Gates might be in a stronger position if he could explain why American forces were withdrawn from Afghanistan when the opportunity for success was great. He might explain the lack of any overall plan other than fight and fight. On one hand, farmers are having their poppy fields destroyed while, on the other hand, America wants to win them over from favoring the Taliban who allow poppy fields. President Karzai of Afghanistan has asked the Taliban to negotiate with him only to have his request greeted with anger by the Bush administration. Perhaps, NATO forces realize the incoherence of present military operations and are reacting with disdain to any American advice and wondering if they are better off simply leaving the chaos. Is there a coherent plan? What are its timetables? Has it been put together with the cooperation of the Afghan government? After all, it is their country, not ours.
Posted in Asia, Europe, George Bush, Iraq War, Military, Peace, Politics, US Foreign Policy, War, World News
Tagged Afghanistan, Bush, Gates, helicopters, Karzai, NATO