Gates: Failure in Afghanistan Would Mean a 'Taliban Takeover' of Country

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Afghanistan, 02 Dec 2009
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Afghanistan, 02 Dec 2009

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates defended President Barack Obama's new Afghanistan strategy at a congressional hearing on Wednesday, saying that failure in Afghanistan would mean a "Taliban takeover" of the country.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen also took questions from members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, with several lawmakers pressing them about the president's pledge to begin troop withdrawals from Afghanistan by July of 2011. 

On the day after a major speech by President Obama announcing his plan to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan, senior cabinet members and Pentagon officials went to Capitol Hill to take questions from Senate lawmakers.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the stakes for U.S. national security could not be higher.

"Failure in Afghanistan would mean a Taliban takeover of much, if not most, of the country and likely a renewed civil war," said Robert Gates.

Gates said Taliban-ruled areas could quickly become sanctuaries for al-Qaida again and a staging area for attacks into Pakistan.  He said this would have severe consequences for the United States and the world, and that President Obama made the right decision to boost U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

"The president's decision offers the best possibility to decisively change the momentum in Afghanistan, and fundamentally alter the strategic equation in Pakistan and Central Asia," he said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton agreed that President Obama chose the best way forward out of a range of difficult options.  She said Afghanistan's vital importance to U.S. security has been clear ever since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

"The case for action against al-Qaida has always been clear, but the United States' course of action has not," said Hillary Clinton.

Clinton said she believes the U.S.-led war in Iraq was a distraction that allowed the Taliban and other extremists to regroup.

"And while our attention was focused elsewhere, the Taliban gained momentum in Afghanistan and the extremist threat grew in Pakistan - a country with 175 million people, a nuclear arsenal and more than its share of challenges," she said.

Most members of the Armed Services Committee supported President Obama's decision to increase the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.  But several senators pressed Gates, Clinton and Mullen on comments the president made about beginning to pull out U.S. troops in late 2011.

Republican Senator John McCain was one of them.

"A withdrawal date only emboldens al-Qaida and the Taliban, while dispiriting our Afghan partners and making it less likely that they will risk their lives to take our side in this fight," said John McCain.

Senator McCain said success is the only exit strategy and that American troops should return home with honor when the war is won, not before.

Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates said that one reason President Obama set a date for beginning to withdraw U.S. troops was to get Afghanis to take more responsibility for stabilizing their country. 

Independent Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman gave President Obama credit for making a decision to send more troops that is opposed by many liberal members of his own Democratic Party.

"The president has quite literally put our national security interests ahead of partisan political interests," said Lieberman.

Lieberman urged all lawmakers to do the same on national security matters.  

Senior Obama administration officials will continue to answer lawmakers questions at hearings on Capitol Hill this week.  Congress must approve funding for the additional troops that President Obama wants to send to Afghanistan.  

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Music Brings Generations Together

When musicians over the age of 50 headline a rock concert, you expect to see baby boomer fans in the audience. Boomer rock stars have boomer fans. Millennial rock stars have millennial fans. But this isn’t always the case. Take the Lockn’ Music festival which took place in mid-September in rural Arrington, Virginia. Here, Jacquelyn de Phillips discovered two generations of people who are considered quite different in the outside world, spending 4 days together in music-loving harmony.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs