Entries in Robert Gates (22)


US Envoy Disputes Afghan President's Claims of Coalition Occupation

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gary A. Witte, 300th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment(HERAT, Afghanistan) -- The U.S. showed its growing impatience with Afghan President Hamid Karzai describing coalition forces as occupiers in remarks made Sunday by outgoing Ambassador Karl Einkenberry at Herat University.

Einkenberry, the former Army lieutenant general who's been top envoy to Afghanistan since April 2009, responded to Karzai's comments from the day before that American and NATO troops are "here for their own purposes, for their own goals, and they’re using our soil for that."

The Afghan leader has long been critical of coalition forces over "friendly fire" incidents resulting in civilian deaths but his opinions have grown even more strident in recent weeks.

Speaking for the Obama administration, Eikenberry made it clear that Karzai's newest criticisms are unwarranted, declaring, "When Americans, who are serving in your country at great cost -- in terms of life and treasure -- hear themselves compared with occupiers, told that they are only here to advance their own interest, and likened to the brutal enemies of the Afghan people, they are filled with confusion and grow weary of our effort here."'

Karzai's statements are clearly not helpful to the coalition effort, especially with the White House set to announce what is expected to be the first of several troop drawdowns from Afghanistan.  U.S. public opinion has also turned against the war effort as lawmakers from both parties have questioned the point of remaining involved in a conflict that seems endless.

Eikenberry went on to say in response to one student's question about the Afghan president, "should we lose our mutual confidence in each other, should we lose our mutual respect, those goals of transition could be compromised.”

At the same time he was blasting "nations of the world" for "using our country," Karzai claimed that the U.S. officials had joined in talks with the Taliban to find a peaceful end to the war, although Defense Secretary Robert Gates said these discussions are in their very early stages.

According to Gates, "I think that the Taliban have to feel themselves under military pressure, and begin to believe that they can’t win before they’re willing to have a serious conversation."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pentagon Begins Shifting Troops as Afghan Drawdown Nears

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gary A. Witte, 300th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama has not yet announced the size of the troop reduction to meet a July deadline for the start of a drawdown in Afghanistan, but the Pentagon has already begun paring U.S. forces there.

The Pentagon announced Thursday that 800 Army National Guard troops scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan will instead be shifted to Kuwait next month in support of the mission in Iraq.

There are some 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and the president is under pressure from lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to make significant reductions, especially in the wake of the death of Osama bin Laden.  There are also some 47,000 troops from other countries participating in the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan.

Outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he approved Gen. David Petraeus’ recommendation that the troops be diverted to Kuwait.  Gates also told reporters that the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will drop from $160 billion to $120 billion in the upcoming fiscal year, which begins on Oct. 1.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Senators Question Alliance with Pakistan over Informant Arrests

Media and local residents gather outside the hideout of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden following his death by U.S. Special Forces in a ground operation in Abbottabad on May 3, 2011. AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The American sailors who buried Osama bin Laden at sea came home Wednesday and were greeted as heroes. Not so for the half-dozen or so Pakistanis vital to the mission, whose reward was detention by Pakistan's top spy agency.

In Congress Wednesday, there was palpable outrage at a putative ally that receives more than $2 billion a year in U.S. aid.

"How long do we support governments that lie to us? When do we say, 'Enough is enough'?" Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., asked Secretary of Defense Robert Gates Wednesday at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing. "They arrested people who helped us get him."

Gates prompted laughter with his response.

"First of all, I would say, based on 27 years in CIA and four-and-a-half years in this job, most governments lie to each other," he said. "That's the way business gets done."

Humor aside, the implications of the arrests could be serious, according to former U.S. counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke.

"If the U.S. doesn't have local Pakistani informants, then it's going to be very, very difficult for the United States to stage operations inside Pakistan," Clarke said. "And that's exactly what the Pakistani government wants, for it to be very difficult for the Americans to be able to do this again."

Informants are crucial to U.S. counter-terrorism efforts. It is informants on the ground, usually locals, who provide tips on an enemy target. While information can come by tapping in to cellphone calls and texts, informants can help track and back up what technical monitoring provides. Informants can provide eyes on the ground if a drone strike is called in or a secret raid is conducted to make certain the human target is inside and innocents are not.

The U.S. certainly has leverage over Pakistan. It provides about $2 billion a year in military aid. But even so, this drama is not over.

The U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, told the Senate hearing that although the relationship with Pakistan is complicated, not dealing with the Pakistanis would likely mean the U.S. would be out of the picture in Pakistan -- where the Afghan Taliban is believed to have regrouped -- for another five to 10 years. He added that the U.S. is in the midst of building a relationship with Pakistan, which was "badly broken" in the '80s and '90s.

Mullen said that "some of the criticism is more than warranted" when it comes to the relationship with Pakistan.

"Nobody's worked that harder than me, very frankly, with the leadership -- and it's a conscious decision, I think, that we have to make," he said. "If we walk away from it, it's my view it'll be a much more dangerous place a decade from now, and we'll be back."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gates Optimistic Congress Will Back Obama's Decision on Afghanistan

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday that he's confident Congress will back whatever decision President Obama makes about the beginning of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan set to start in July.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Gates said, "I think that Congress is very reluctant to thwart the president when he has decided something is in the national interest.  I think that people are responsive to strong leadership."

The outcry in Congress has grown louder in recent months for a quicker and steeper drawdown from Afghanistan, a war that will reach the 10-year mark in October.  Public opinion polls have also shown a majority of Americans no longer believe the war has been worth the effort.

While he wouldn't say how large the first troop pullout should be, Gates has mentioned previously that he only favors a modest drawdown.  The general consensus is that Obama will call for 5,000 soldiers to come home, or about five percent of the current force of 100,000.

The White House says the decision will be based on conditions on the ground.  Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, is currently in Washington to deliver his recommendations.

Gates is leaving his post at the end of June and will likely be replaced by CIA Director Leon Panetta, who is expected to gain easy confirmation by the Senate.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Is US Winning in Afghanistan? Gates and Petraeus Won't Say

ABC News(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- America's two top military commanders declined Monday to state whether the U.S. is winning the war in Afghanistan.

"We're making progress," said Gen. David Petraeus said when asked by ABC World News anchor Diane Sawyer whether the U.S. was winning the now decade long war in Afghanistan. "We're really loathed to use this very loaded term of winning or losing."

Petreaus made his comments in an exclusive joint interview with Sawyer along with his boss Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The interview was conducted in Kabul, Afghanistan.

"We've made enormous progress in a number of different geographic areas within Afghanistan. And overall, the momentum has changed," the general said.

"I believe that we have had a great deal of success in achieving the mission that our forces have been given... in terms of disrupting Taliban activity, in terms of degrading their capabilities, in terms of denying them control of population areas," Gates said.

The qualified statements come as Gates and Petreaus prepare an assessment on the status of the war for the White House, which will determine the size of a potential troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. The comments also come as the political climate back home suggests Americans are growing impatient with the war.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll has found that 54 percent of Americans say the war in Afghanistan has not been worth fighting, and 73 percent say the United States should withdraw a substantial number of U.S. combat forces from Afghanistan this summer.

By most accounts "the surge" strategy President Obama decided to implement has achieved its goals. The U.S. has reclaimed southern Afghanistan, including Kandahar, the spiritual home of the Taliban. However, there is still fierce fighting in eastern Afghanistan along the border with Pakistan. Insurgent groups in Pakistan have sent reinforcements and there have been signs of foreign fighters also attacking U.S. forces.

Gates said Obama fully understands the impact of withdrawing troops, but the decision on troop numbers is ultimately up to the commander in chief.

While Obama has said there will be a substantial drawdown of the 100,000 U.S. forces, Gates has framed it as "modest" one for July, but said the number has not been decided on.

Petraeus said their job is to provide Obama with options and gauge the risks of each potential plan.

"It is ultimately the president's decision. And of course... we need to have congressional support. But they also need to understand consequences," the general said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Robert Gates to ABC News: Congress 'Impatient' on Afghanistan

ABC News (file)(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Although many in Congress see the war in Afghanistan as too costly, "the cost of failure" is high and decisions should not be made using short-term thinking, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told ABC News' Diane Sawyer during an exclusive interview in Kabul, Afghanistan.

"We've invested a huge amount of money here. We've invested 1,254 lives up to this point. So what's the cost of getting it wrong?" said Gates. "Congress is almost always impatient. I remember in the spring of 2007, people saying this war is lost in Iraq."

In Kandahar on Monday, Gates told troops he's confident the United States will "strike the right balance" on the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

"Nobody wants to give up the gains that have been won at such a hard cost, and nobody wants to give our allies the excuse to run for the exits," Gates told the troops at Forward Operating Base Walton in Kandahar.

Given the troop numbers, Gates said the drawdown this summer would likely be a combination of combat and support elements. The actual timeline of the troop drawdown has yet to be decided, and the defense secretary said Gen. David Petraeus, the current commander of the forces in Afghanistan, and Lt. Gen. John Allen, his successor, will play key roles in deciding that.

While Gates thanked the troops, he also acknowledged that drones have proven to be crucial in the war against terror. "First of all it has to be acknowledged that these drones have a significant role in taking a lot of Taliban leaders, trainers off the table. The question really then becomes the role of the drones, our relationship with Pakistan and how this all fits together," Gates told ABC World News anchor Diane Sawyer.

Gates will be joined by Petraeus, the outgoing commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF), Monday for their first joint interview with Sawyer. The two leaders met on Saturday after Gates arrived in Kabul.

On Saturday, a U.S. missile strike reportedly killed terrorist Ilyas Kashmiri, a contender poised to take over al Qaeda. Both American and Pakistani officials have said they have not been able to confirm Kasmiri's death. The report comes as both countries work to on easing tension in the wake of Osama bin Laden's death last month.

"We've gone through a difficult spell with the Pakistani government. The reality is that we need each other. And so working our way through that is a complicated business. It is a complicated relationship. And clearly the drones are a piece of that," Gates told Sawyer.

Watch ABC's Diane Sawyer report for World News from Kabul, Afghanistan, on Monday, June 6.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Troop Withdrawal: Gates Confident 'We'll Strike the Right Balance'

Charles Dharapak - Pool/Getty Images(KANDAHAR, Afghanistan) -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates told troops in Kandahar on Sunday that he's confident the United States will "strike the right balance" on the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

"Nobody wants to give up the gains that have been won at such a hard cost, and nobody wants to give our allies the excuse to run for the exits," Gates told the troops at Forward Operating Base Walton in Kandahar.

Gates said it was a "no-brainer" that combat troops should be the last to leave as he thanked them for their service.

"For my money...if it were up to me, I would leave the shooters for last," he said.

Gates' trip comes as he evaluates the situation on the ground in Afghanistan before he retires at the end of the month.

"I feel your hardship and your sacrifice and your burden, and that of your families, more than you can possibly know.  You are, I believe, the best our country has to offer, and you will be in my thoughts and prayers, every day for the rest of my life.  Thank you," Gates told troops while holding back tears.

Given the troop numbers, however, Gates said the drawdown this summer would likely be a combination of combat and support elements.

The actual timeline of the troop drawdown has yet to be decided.  The defense secretary said Gen. David Petraeus, the current commander of the forces in Afghanistan, and Lt. Gen. John Allen, his successor, will play key roles in deciding that.

"I think the mix of what comes out is really up to Gen. Petraeus and then Gen. Allen in terms of composition and which units are selected," Gates said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gates Believes 'Somebody' in Pakistan Knew of Bin Laden's Hideout

Charles Dharapak - Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- If there is really such a thing as giving someone the benefit of the doubt, the White House is stretching that idea to the limit in how it's dealing with Pakistan in the wake of Osama bin Laden's death.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday that while it's his opinion "somebody" in Pakistan knew that bin Laden was holed up in an Abbottabad compound with his wives and children, the administration can't say with any certainty that senior Pakistani leaders were aware the al Qaeda leader was living under their noses for years.

Still, the White House is not letting go of the theory that some "support network" had to exist in order for bin Laden to continue living undetected just a short distance from the Pakistani equivalent of the West Point military academy.

Gates admitted, "We don’t know whether it was retired people, whether it was low level -- pure supposition on our part.  It's hard to go to them with an accusation when we have no proof that anybody knew."

Such evidence may eventually turn up as U.S. intelligence goes through a trove of computer files found at the compound where Navy SEALs killed bin Laden, along with one of his sons and three others.

Asked if senior Pakistani leaders should be penalized in some fashion if it's shown they were ignorant of bin Laden's whereabouts, Gates responded, "If I were in Pakistani shoes, I would say I've already paid a price -- I've been humiliated, I've been shown that the Americans can come in here and do this with impunity."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gates: No Decision Yet on Afghan Troop Reduction Numbers

Charles Dharapak - Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The plan is for the U.S. to begin pulling out U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan in July, but there has still been no recommendation made by Gen. David Petraeus about how many troops should come home.
That’s according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who said at his media availability Tuesday with British Defense Minister Liam Fox, “I have not yet received General Petraeus' recommendations.  I expect that they will be coming in the not-too-distant future.”

Defense officials say there has been no presentation of numbers from Afghanistan to the Pentagon as to how many should come home.  They say any such discussion has been a tight hold.

Typically the military likes personnel decisions to be made with enough time to prepare or stand down troops for deployment, but in this case it could come very late in the process.  This is mainly because Petraeus wants to keep his current force level of 100,000 U.S. troops for as long as he can to fight off the Taliban when the fighting season is in full gear in a few weeks. 

It’s the middle of the poppy harvest right now, a time when young men work in the fields, and afterwards it’s typical for them to hire themselves out to the Taliban for the fighting season.  That could mean the full brunt of the fighting season won’t be seen until the same timeframe as when the administration will decide how many troops will come home in July.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gates: Increasing Violence in Afghanistan Expected in Weeks Ahead

Charles Dharapak - Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Three months ahead of the beginning of a July 2011 U.S. troop drawdown in Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told reporters Thursday there has been “some uptick in activity” by Taliban fighters but that he expected “an increase in the level of violence and activity beginning in a few weeks.”

“We're still kind of in the middle of the poppy harvest.  And I think that -- so I think they're really expecting whatever return to the battlefield there is by the Taliban will be probably sometime more in May -- in May and June,” he told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday.

Gen. James Cartright, Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman, echoed Gates, saying that the recent uptick was more along the lines of the “individual spectacular attack rather than groups of people.”

While U.S. military officials have said the Taliban's momentum has been reversed, Gates said Thursday its fighters “clearly intend to try to take that back.”

“My own view is that this year is a critical year,” he said. “If we can prevent them this year from retaking the areas that we have taken away from them, and we can continue to expand the security bubble, I think it's possible that by the end of this year we will have turned a corner just because of the Taliban being driven out, and, more importantly, kept out.”

“But,” he said, “that's more months into the future than it is -- than it is weeks.”

From Afghanistan, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Sean Mulholland, deputy commander of RC-North, said he was “cautiously optimistic.”

“The winter gains are still holding. We haven't lost any territory,” he told reporters Thursday from Afghanistan. “I would still say we are still in the woods. We're not out of the woods. We still need to be relentless in continuing to pressure the Taliban and the bad actors up here. But the trend is for the positive right now in terms of how the -- how the local populace feels about ISAF and their security forces and how we're progressing.”

While American casualties in Afghanistan due to hostile fire are comparable to last year’s, there has been a significant uptick in this April compared to last April, according to statistics compiled by

Twenty-two U.S. troops have been killed so far this month, compared to 14 U.S. troops last April.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

ABC News Radio