Gates warns de­feat in Iraq would ‘en­dan­ger’ U.S. as he is sworn in at De­fense

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Rowan Scar­bor­ough

De­fense Sec­re­tary Roberts M. Gates took the oath of of­fice on Dec. 18 and im­me­di­ately said the U.S. must win in Iraq or face a “calamity” that would “en­dan­ger Amer­i­cans for decades to come.”

Sworn in at the Pen­tagon by Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney, Mr. Gates has the daunt­ing chal­lenge of find­ing a way for 135,000 U.S. troops in Iraq to turn the tide of bat­tle that has Sunni and Shi’ite Mus­lims killing each other and in­cit­ing vi­o­lence through­out Greater Bagh­dad.

Pres­i­dent Bush has or­dered the Pen­tagon and other agen­cies to de­velop a new strat­egy and tac­tics that may in­volve bol­ster­ing troop num­bers and in­creas­ing the em­pha­sis on a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion. His ad­min­is­tra­tion also must find a way to stem Iran’s grow­ing in­flu­ence in Shi’ite-dom­i­nated south­ern Iraq, where Tehran is fund­ing and train­ing mili­tias whose death squads tar­get Sun­nis.

“Fail­ure in Iraq at this junc­ture would be a calamity that would haunt our na­tion, im­pair our cred­i­bil­ity and en­dan­ger Amer­i­cans for decades to come,” Mr. Gates told an au­di­ence that in­cluded the Joint Chiefs of Staff, civil­ian ser­vice sec­re­taries and rank-and-file Pen­tagon work­ers.

He said at his Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing that the U.S. is nei­ther win­ning nor los­ing in Iraq. He was to visit Iraq later in the week to con­sult with field com­man­ders be­fore mak­ing fi­nal rec­om­men­da­tions to Mr. Bush. He said he wants gen­er­als in Iraq to pro­vide him ad­vice “un­var­nished and straight from the shoul­der.”

He said he has par­tic­i­pated in a se­ries of Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil meet­ings on Iraq and dis­cussed a “way for­ward in Iraq in depth with the pres­i­dent.”

Mr. Bush said at the swear­ing-in cer­e­mony that he will rely on Mr. Gates “to pro­vide me with the best pos­si­ble ad­vice and to help di­rect our na­tion’s armed forces as they en­gage the en­e­mies of free­dom around the world.”

“Bob Gates is the right man to take on th­ese chal­lenges. [. . .] He un­der­stands that de­feat­ing the ter- ror­ists and the rad­i­cals and the ex­trem­ists in Iraq and the Mid­dle East is es­sen­tial to lead­ing to­ward peace.”

Mr. Gates said the stakes are high for the fi­nal two years of Mr. Bush’s pres­i­dency.

“The next two years will de­ter­mine whether Iraq, Afghanistan and other na­tions at a cross­roads will pur­sue paths of grad­ual progress to­wards sus­tain­able gov­ern­ments which are al­lies in the global war on ter­ror­ism or whether the forces of ex­trem­ism and chaos will be­come as­cen­dant,” he said.

The Pen­tagon’s first new chief in nearly six years is ex­pected to bring anew­style.OutisDon­aldH.Rums­feld, the whirl­wind who put scores of new poli­cies in place. In is the CIA di­rec­tor in the first Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion who is con­sid­ered more of a prag­matic man­ager.

Pen­tagon of­fi­cials do not ex­pect Mr. Gates to re­view ev­ery trans­for­ma­tion be­gun by Mr. Rums­feld, but to fo­cus on Iraq and coun­tert­er­ror­ism.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Pres­i­dent Bush at­tended the cer­e­mo­nial swear­ing-in of De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates — with wife Becky — by Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney at the Pen­tagon on Dec. 18.

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