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Never mind what the commanders in the field are saying — much less the troops who do the dying.
After meeting in Canada on Friday with counterparts from countries with troops in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Gates emphasized to reporters there is a shared interest in "surging as many forces as we can" into Afghanistan before the elections there in late September 2009.
At the concluding news conference, Gates again drove home the point, "It’s important that we have a surge of forces."
Basking in the alleged success of the Iraq "surge," Gates knows a winning word when he hears one – whether the facts are with him or not. Although the conventional wisdom in Washington credits the "surge" with reducing violence in Iraq, military analysts point to other reasons – including Sunni tribes repudiating al-Qaeda extremists before the "surge" and the de facto ethnic cleansing of Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods.
In Washington political circles, there’s also little concern about the 1,000 additional U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq since President George W. Bush started the "surge" early in 2007. The Americans killed during the "surge" represent roughly one-quarter of the total war dead whose numbers passed the 4,200 mark last week.
Nor is there much Washington commentary about what Bush’s grotesque expenditure in blood and treasure will mean in the long term, even as the Iraqis put the finishing touches on a security pact that sets a firm deadline for a complete U.S. military withdrawal by the end of 2011, wording that may be Arabic for "thanks, but no thanks."
And most Americans do not know from reading the reports from their Fawning Corporate Media that the "surge" was such a "success" that the United States now has about 8,000 more troops in Iraq than were there before the "surge" rose and fell.
The real "success" of the Iraq "surge" is proving to be that it will let President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney leave office on Jan. 20, 2009, without having to admit that they were responsible for a strategic disaster. They can lay the blame for failure on their successors.
Gates a Winner?
Gates stands to be another beneficiary of the Iraq "surge."
Already, he has the Defense Secretary job. In November 2006, he was plucked from the relative obscurity of his Texas A&M presidency and put back into the international spotlight that he has always craved because he was willing to front for the "surge" when even Donald Rumsfeld was urging Bush to start a troop drawdown.
Now, the perceived "success" of the "surge" is giving hawkish Washington Democrats an excuse to rally around Gates and urge President-elect Barack Obama to keep him on.
Ever an accomplished bureaucrat, Gates is doing what he can to strengthen his case.
On Friday, Gates seemed at pains to demonstrate that his approach to Afghanistan is identical to the one publicly espoused by his prospective new employer who is currently reviewing Gates’ job renewal application. And, as he did with the Iraq "surge" over the past two years, Gates now is talking up the prospects for an Afghan "surge."
"The notion that things are out of control in Afghanistan or that we’re sliding toward a disaster, I think, is far too pessimistic," Gates said. Yet the argument that Gates used to support his relative optimism makes us veteran intelligence officers gag — at least those who remember the U.S. in Vietnam in the 1960s, the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s and other failed counterinsurgencies.
"The Taliban holds no land in Afghanistan, and loses every time it comes into contact with coalition forces," Gates explained.