Gates on the draw-down and the search for bin Laden
The Post's Glenn Kessler and Griff Witte reported from Kabul Tuesday morning while traveling with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates that "Afghan President Hamid Karzai and ... Gates offered potentially conflicting time frames Tuesday for when American forces will be able to leave this war-torn country, with Gates warning that the U.S. commitment is not open-ended and Karzai saying it will be at least five years before Afghanistan can secure itself. "
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates also sat down overnight with NBC's Matt Lauer on their flight to Afghanistan. The interview aired on NBC's "Today" show Tuesday morning. Some highlights:
On the timetable for withdrawal:
LAUER: The reporting in the last couple of days has been that you and other people at the Pentagon were not at all in favor of this exit timetable. Is this plan that you're being put in charge of putting into effect right now, is this the best possible plan? Is it the plan you wanted?
GATES: In terms of lighting a fire under the Afghan government to get on with recruiting the size forces they need and getting them trained and getting them into the field, I don't know a better way to do that than what we have.
By the same token, in terms of an assertion of providing confidence of our commitment, I think that the conditions-based way of approaching the draw-downs after July 2011 is also exactly the right way.
On the hunt for Osama bin Laden:
LAUER: Everything you say is dissected these days. You said something else in an interview over the weekend that I think got a lot of attention, and that is that at this date you were asked if we have good intelligence or credible intelligence on Osama bin Laden -- and you're smiling -- but you said, "We haven't had credible intelligence," and I believe your expression was "in years."
GATES: Not that I've seen. I'm now celebrating my third anniversary. I haven't seen any.
LAUER: I think that probably is going to surprise a lot of people. It's the most infamous terrorist in the world. His resume includes events that have taken so many American lives. And I guess the question is, why don't we have better intelligence on his whereabouts?
GATES: Well, because he has sought refuge in what is essentially ungoverned space where the Pakistani government has not had a presence of any kind, or of any substantial kind, in years, if ever, and where he has the protection of local tribes. And it's incredibly rough terrain.
And the truth of the matter is, somebody who is smart and who is cautious can elude people for many years. I mean, look at the Unabomber in the United States; 17 years or something that guy eluded the FBI, and that was inside our own country. So if you have a lot of help, as he does, it is certainly -- you certainly are able to do it.
Web Politics Editor
December 8, 2009; 11:29 AM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency
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