Next defense secretary admits: US not winning in Iraq
Robert Gates, the White House choice to be the next defense secretary, conceded Tuesday that the United States is not winning the war in Iraq and warned that if the war-torn country is not stabilized in the next year or two it could lead to a "regional conflagration."
At a Senate confirmation hearing, the man President Bush chose to replace Donald H. Rumsfeld stated he is open to new ideas about correcting the American course in Iraq. He said the Iraq war would be his highest priority if confirmed as expected.
Gates, 63, said he believes Bush wants to see Iraq improve to the point where it can govern and defend itself, while seeking a new approach. "What we are now doing is not satisfactory," Gates said, according to the AP. "In my view, all options are on the table, in terms of how we address this problem in Iraq," he added. He did not commit to favoring any specific new course, saying he would consult first with commanders and others.
Asked whether the U.S. is winning in Iraq, Gates replied, "No" He later said he believes the United States is neither winning nor losing, "at this point."
Later, he did not withdraw the remark but said, "I want to make clear that that pertains to the situation in Iraq as a whole." He said he did not want American forces to think he believes they are being unsuccessful in their assigned missions. "Our military wins the battles that we fight," Gates said. "Where we're having our challenges, frankly, are in the areas of stabilization and political developments and so on."
Asked later whether announcing a specific troop withdrawal timetable would send a signal of U.S. weakness, Gates said it "would essentially tell (the insurgents) how long they have to wait until we're gone."