Gates Changes Afghanistan Tune
Posted on Jan 28, 2009
Turning away from the nation-building exercises that defined Bush-era policies but maintaining the dubious “war on terror” frame, Defense Secretary Gates indicated Tuesday that he has changed his mind on the goals for Afghanistan. Gates declared that the U.S., instead of seeking democracy, should set more limited goals in the long war and occupation.
As President Obama prepared to meet today with top military officials to review the troubled U.S. effort in Afghanistan, his Defense secretary told lawmakers Tuesday that the U.S. should set realistic, achievable goals.
The recommendation by Robert M. Gates, who also served under President Bush, represents a notable departure from the position of the Bush administration, which long emphasized the importance of establishing a strong, democratic government in Afghanistan.
But in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gates said the U.S. risked failure if it did not set more limited objectives. Rather than the pursuit of democracy, Gates said the primary mission should be ensuring that Afghanistan did not again become a haven for Al Qaeda.
With women’s rights and democratization no longer primary goals for Afghanistan, U.S. policy there may be limited to preventing terrorism.