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Why Robert Gates Changed His Mind on Afghanistan

An article by Frederick Kagan "had particular resonance."

2:39 PM, Aug 16, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Another very interesting nugget from the Foreign Policy profile of Defense Secretary Robert Gates:

Gates's most fateful influence may have come in the deliberations over the war in Afghanistan. Early in Obama's presidency, in hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gates endorsed the commanders' request for 21,000 more troops to shore up security for the upcoming Afghan election but stressed that he'd be "deeply skeptical" of requests for more down the road. One of his most searing experiences was as the CIA's deputy director during the Reagan years, watching the Soviet empire collapse in the Afghan quagmire. If the Afghan people see the war as an American war, Gates told the senators, "we will go the way of other imperial occupiers."

Yet late in the summer of 2009, Gates changed his mind. He was reading a lot of articles on Afghanistan, and one had particular resonance: a piece by Frederick Kagan, a military analyst and vocal war supporter at the American Enterprise Institute, called "We're Not the Soviets in Afghanistan," published that August by the Weekly Standard. Gates said the article reminded him of some facts about the earlier war that he'd forgotten -- that the Soviets had killed 1 million Afghans, displaced 5 million more, and set out basically to destroy the country. "Clearly," Gates said in our interview, "none of that is what we were about in Afghanistan."

Read Kagan's influential article here.

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