In Afghanistan, Gates Reaffirms Commitment Against Insurgentshttp://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/05/world/asia/05gates.html?ref=global-home
KABUL, Afghanistan — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates made an unannounced trip to Afghanistan on Saturday, using his arrival to argue that the mission to beat back a tenacious insurgency should not be put at risk by budget concerns in Washington.
Mr. Gates said that once the United States committed to guaranteeing that Afghanistan would never again be a safe haven for planning attacks on the United States, then “success of the mission should override everything else.”
“The most costly thing of all would be to fail,” warned Mr. Gates, making his 12th and final visit to Afghanistan as defense secretary.
Fiscal constraints in Washington will reduce Pentagon spending over coming years, and some in Congress are citing both the budget problems and the death of Osama bin Laden, the founder of Al Qaeda, as sufficient cause to move swiftly in withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan.
Some American legislators who support the war effort here are urging a smaller troop commitment — one focused on hunting terrorists and insurgents, with less personnel and money devoted to rebuilding Afghanistan’s shattered economy and corrupt institutions of government.
Mr. Gates noted that a commitment to success “does not preclude adjustments in the mission or in the strategy.”
“But ultimately the objective has to be success in the mission that has been set forth by the president,” he said.
Mr. Gates said President Obama’s order to begin a withdrawal of American forces in July, based on conditions on the ground, would proceed, although no decision had yet been made on numbers for an initial drawdown or on how quickly other troops would follow.
He also cautioned against a withdrawal so rapid that allies with troops in Afghanistan would use the American drawdown as reason to order their forces home.
“We have to weigh the impact potentially on our allies of what we decide,” Mr. Gates said. “We certainly don’t want to precipitate a rush to the exit by our partners.”
At the same time, he said, “You can’t be oblivious to the growing war-weariness at home and the diminishing support in the Congress.”
Mr. Gates landed just days after the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, again issued a sweeping condemnation of raids by American-led NATO forces here that resulted in the deaths of civilians.