Four months before the Bush administration leaves office in January, Defense
Secretary Robert Gates laid out his vision for U.S. military strategy on Monday,
saying the Pentagon needs to strike a balance between conventional capabilities
and the ability to fight insurgencies. Gates also outlined some of the lessons
he has learned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. VOA Correspondent Cindy
Saine has the story.
Speaking to a class at the National Defense
University in Washington, Secretary Gates said he believes America's ability to
deal with national security threats for years to come will depend on its success
in two current conflicts.
"To be blunt, to fail - or to be seen to fail -
in either Iraq or Afghanistan would be a disastrous blow to our credibility,
both among our friends and allies, and among potential adversaries," he
Gates said the number of U.S. combat units in Iraq will decline
over time, but added:
"No matter who is elected president in November,
there will continue to be some kind of American advisory and counterterrorism
effort in Iraq for years to come," he said.
Gates said U.S. troop levels
in Afghanistan are rising, and that the conflict there in many ways poses an
even more complex and difficult long-term challenge than Iraq.
the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan "forced regime change followed by
nation-building under fire," Gates said the U.S. is unlikely to become involved
in similar situations anytime soon. But he cautioned that U.S. forces will
likely face similar challenges, and that it will be important to employ indirect
approaches against insurgencies, and to institutionalize new and unconventional
Secretary Gates also stressed that the United States may have to
contend with more traditional kinds of threats.
"The images of Russian
tanks rolling into the Republic of Georgia last month was a reminder that
nation-states and their militaries do still matter," he said.
defense secretary added that there is no reason to begin "rearming for another
Cold War" with Russia.
Gates concluded his speech by asking the class
of U.S. military officers to be modest about what military force and technology
can accomplish. He urged the class to never forget the "psychological, cultural,
political and human dimensions of warfare," which he called inevitably tragic,
inefficient and uncertain.