Bob Gates Interview
...One of his most searing experiences was as the CIA's deputy director during the Reagan years, watching the Soviet empire collapse in the Afghan quagmire. If the Afghan people see the war as an American war, Gates told the senators, "we will go the way of other imperial occupiers."
Yet late in the summer of 2009, Gates changed his mind. He was reading a lot of articles on Afghanistan, and one had particular resonance: a piece by Frederick Kagan, a military analyst and vocal war supporter at the American Enterprise Institute, called "We're Not the Soviets in Afghanistan," published that August by the Weekly Standard. Gates said the article reminded him of some facts about the earlier war that he'd forgotten -- that the Soviets had killed 1 million Afghans, displaced 5 million more, and set out basically to destroy the country. "Clearly," Gates said in our interview, "none of that is what we were about in Afghanistan."
..."The basis of my previous view was that once the Afghans come to see you as an occupier, you're toast," Gates recalled in our interview, which took place soon after McChrystal was sacked. "McChrystal's whole approach was avoiding that. How do you demonstrate to the Afghans that you're there as their partner and their liberator rather than as their oppressor? His strategy for doing that seemed to be really compelling."
Two elements are key here. First, Gates's idea of an endgame is not the Bushian notion that Afghanistan becomes a democracy or even necessarily a stable country, but rather that its security forces can fight the war for the most part by themselves. Second, some U.S. armed forces will end up staying in Afghanistan -- just as some (between 30,000 and 50,000) are due to stay in Iraq -- for a long while.
"But by the same token," Gates added, "the one thing that I've made clear to everybody is that I'm not going to support a strategy that leads to a stalemate." In December, Obama's national security team will conduct an assessment of whether the strategy is working. "If we're not making any headway," Gates said, "then I think we have to look at making adjustments." What kinds of adjustments, he doesn't know. "But we're not just going to plunge ahead with exactly the same strategy if it's clear it's not working."