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Secretary Gates might be in a stronger position if he could explain why American forces were withdrawn from Afghanistan when the opportunity for success was great.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.