The Secretary of Defense appeared on Fox News Sunday today. Chris Wallace, the moderator, took the opportunity to ask every divisive, provocative question available and Gates breezed through the interview coolly answering all questions in a factual, calm way that utterly defeated the Fox instinct for trouble making.
There has been concern here about the new US policy in Afghanistan. When asked if Obama was denying the US command there of forces, Gates said that the president had approved all requests that he, Gates, has made for deployment authority for forces going to Afghanistan. When asked what the US goal is in Afghanistan, Gates repeated the president's statement that we are there to "defeat, disrupt and destroy"al-Qa'ida forces in the country. Wallace tried several times to expand that mission statement to include the Taliban. Gates ignored this and would not be drawn. The implication is clear that an attempt will be made to suborn the more suborn-able parts of the insurgent array. Wallace also tried to insist that a lot more troops would be needed. Gates ignored that as well. There will not be a lot more US troops over and above the 60,000 number that are now scheduled. These are several reasons for that. The most important one is that the administration does not want to be pulled into an open ended commitment to Afghanistan. Al-Qa'ida is the objective, not a renaissance for Afghanistan. The second most important reason for a limited force in Afghanistan is the state of exhaustion of the US Army. Materiel, soldiers, families, are all exhausted. The force is brittle. Money for the "operations and maintenance" costs of another big war would be unsustainable. The right wingers on FNS want to see a bigCOIN campaign in the policy that Obama announced for Afghanistan. They want to see a policy that represents an Obama acceptance of what they call the "Bush Surge." In fact the Obama Afghanistan policy if very limited in scope, and cleverly disguised to look like something that the right thinks it likes. pl