US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday that the Obama administration’s redrawn Afghanistan war strategy is sound, answering claims in a new book that the plan was a politically driven hodgepodge.
Once President Barack Obama announced the plan his entire administration and the military swung behind it, Gates said during a Pentagon news conference. The Pentagon chief also predicted no big shifts as the war moves into its 10th year.
Obama overrode some close advisers last December after months of debate, when he added about 30,000 forces and shifted battlefield priorities. Neither did he satisfy his generals. The resulting divisions and bureaucratic backbiting are laid out in Washington Post writer Bob Woodward’s book “Obama’s Wars.”
Gates shrugged off those divisions.
“Conflict sells,” Gates said.
The Obama administration sought a new counterinsurgency strategy to blunt the momentum of the resurgent Taliban. The homegrown Afghan insurgency was defeated in the 2001 invasion but allowed to regroup during several years of what Obama and his advisers call inattention by the Bush administration.
The book suggests the final strategy was fashioned by committee and was partly driven by anti-war politics within the Democratic Party.
The White House will conduct a long-planned review of its Afghan strategy at the end of this year, and some Democrats had hoped that Obama would use the opportunity to signal a swift end to the protracted and costly conflict.
Gates said the Afghan war may have dragged on for years, but the Obama plan to address it is new and only beginning to bear fruit.
He predicted that the administration might order “adjustments and tweaks” to its war plan, but no major shift in policy. The current plan calls for some forces to come home next summer but presumes that the war will go on far longer.
Gates said relationships within the Obama administration were as harmonious as he has seen in his long government tenure. He refused comment on the book’s claim that he had chewed out a White House colleague for airing his dissenting views on the war too prominently.
Asked whether he held any reservations about the compromise war strategy that emerged from an unusually long and fractious debate, Gates said no.
“I wouldn’t sign the deployment orders if I didn’t believe,” the policy is sound, Gates said.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that he, too, had faith in the current strategy.
“We’re starting to see some signs of progress,” Mullen said. “With the right strategy and the right resources and the right leadership, you know, we’re starting to move forward.”