Robert Gates: ‘We’re Not Ever Leaving’ Afghanistan

Marcus Baram, The Huffington Post, Sep 29, 2010

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In a shocking indication of a split between the White House and the Pentagon over the war in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert Gates believes that the U.S. military will never leave the war-torn country.

During a dinner hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for Afghan President Hamid Karzai in May, Gates reminded the group that he still feels guilty for his role in the first President Bush’s decision to pull out of Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, according to Bob Woodward’s new book, “Obama’s Wars.” And to express his commitment to not letting down the country again, he emphasized:

“We’re not leaving Afghanistan prematurely,” Gates finally said. “In fact, we’re not ever leaving at all.”

Woodward notes that the group was shocked by the blunt comment: “At least one stunned participant put down his fork. Another wrote it down, verbatim, in his notes.”

The definitive statement seems to clash with President Obama’s assertion that he does not want to leave the war to his successor. Though he has emphasized that the U.S. will stay in Afghanistan “until the job is done,” he wants almost all the US troops out before the end of his first term in January 2013, leaving in place a small contingency force.

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