Gates makes his own surprise visit to Afghanistan

Just before the expected completion of the U.S. strategy review on the war in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived in Afghanistan in an unannounced trip Tuesday to assess the U.S. war strategy and progress in the nine-year conflict.

Gates's visit will most likely be more in-depth than President Obama's own surprise three-hour trip to the country last week. Both trips were touted as primarily holiday visits to thank the troops for their service, and like Obama, Gates will meet with the top commander of U.S. and coalition forces, Gen. David Petraeus, and the U.S. ambassador to the country, Karl Eikenberry.

Gates is also scheduled to meet with the commander of joint forces, Gen. David Rodriguez, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Bad weather had kept Obama from meeting with Karzai, though some speculated that the cancellation was purposeful due to strained relations after one diplomatic cable revealed on WikiLeaks called Karzai "a paranoid and weak individual."

The White House denied this allegation, saying that the poor weather conditions made it impossible for the president to make the trip, and the two conversed for 15 minutes by secure video conference.

This visit, Gates's 10th in his tenure, comes just a year after Obama announced his new strategy for the war in Afghanistan and ordered a surge of 30,000 troops to ramp up the offensive against the insurgency while training local Afghan troops to prepare to take over security control.

The strategy review for progress on this front, expected to be completed next week, will then be presented to Obama and his national security team, who will assess whether to make any changes to the war strategy.

"What the secretary learns here, what he sees here, what he thinks here will inform the discussion that is taking place back in Washington," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said of Gates's visit. "I think that coming into this visit, we have a pretty good sense that the strategy is working on the security side and elsewhere, but I think this [visit] is important to inform that discussion back in Washington."

Gates is "feeling very good" about the progress in Afghanistan over the past year, Morrell said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.