Everyone wants to know what he’s thinking. If Gates says no more troops for Afghanistan, Obama can say “Why send more troops if George Bush’s secretary of defense says they’re not necessary?”
If Gates says send the troops, it will be extremely hard for Obama to reject the advice of a secretary so highly-regarded that he was the only Bush cabinet member reappointed by Obama.
So what is Gates thinking? Yesterday, he did a rare joint interview with Hillary Clinton, filmed by CNN:
FRANK SESNO, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me ask you about our objectives, because back in March, President Obama said several things. He said our clear and focused goal — that was his term — was to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda. He said, for the American people, the Afghanistan/Pakistan border was the most dangerous place in the world, that Afghanistan was an international security issue of the highest order, and that, if the Afghan government were to fall to the Taliban, the country will — and I’m quoting him here — “be again a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can.”
Has any of that changed from then until now in this review?
GATES: I don’t think so.
SESNO: So, staying the course and having this government survive and not fall to the Taliban and disrupting and dismantling al Qaeda is the objective, is the goal of this review that you’re going through?
CLINTON: Well, Frank, the goal remains, as the president said last spring.
Generally, those who think the Taliban will open the door to Al Qaeda favor more troops. But Gates (and Clinton) know that. So were they hinting at their own positions, or were they just pretending to hint?
What a game.