Small Wars Journal

Robert Gates Now Says He Opposed Obama Timeline To Pull Troops From Afghanistan

Robert Gates Now Says He Opposed Obama Timeline To Pull Troops From Afghanistan by Hal Bernton - Seattle Times / Stars & Stripes

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he argued against President Barack Obama’s Afghanistan war strategy that set dates for the drawdown of U.S. troops. He supports a decision by President Donald Trump to end such timelines.

In an interview with The Seattle Times, Gates said the policy “basically told the Taliban how long they had to wait. I think it was a big mistake.” He said that a decision by Trump to deploy more troops in an open-ended engagement could eventually prompt the Taliban to negotiate.

Gates’ comments offer a sharply different take than he expressed in his 2014 memoir, “Duty.” That book offers an often harsh assessment of Obama but a resolute defense of the timeline policy that he helped to carry out as he sent troops off to war. In the book, Gates noted that Obama was much criticized by conservatives for disclosing that the Afghanistan surge that began in 2009 would end in 2011 and that combat troops would leave in 2014. But “I believe Obama was right in each of these decisions,” Gates wrote. Gates also writes that the policy “finally forced a narrowing of our objectives to those obtainable in that time frame. I was convinced that we could dramatically weaken the Taliban and strengthen the Afghan army during that period — and if not, then we probably never could.”

Asked about the difference between the book’s account and his remarks to The Seattle Times, Gates said the book reflected his public policy statements while leading the Pentagon. “I think you defend things in public that you may disagree with in private,” Gates said…

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