Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

The Gates files (VI): Iran, Pakistan, Doug Lute, and other things that kept him busy

Gates on Iran: "a kind of national security black hole, directly or indirectly pulling into its gravitational force our relationships with Europe, Russia, China, Israel, and the Arab Gulf states." On Pakistan: "I knew that nothing would change Pakistan’s hedging strategy; to think otherwise was delusional." Later, "I knew they were really no ally at ...

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623761_rickskarzai.jpg
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai prepare for a press conference following their meetings in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 7, 2011. Defense Department photo by Cherie Cullen (released)

Gates on Iran: "a kind of national security black hole, directly or indirectly pulling into its gravitational force our relationships with Europe, Russia, China, Israel, and the Arab Gulf states." On Pakistan: "I knew that nothing would change Pakistan's hedging strategy; to think otherwise was delusional." Later, "I knew they were really no ally at all." (Tom's question: So how do you leverage a hedging strategy?) In Afghanistan in 2008, the average size of an IED was 10 kilograms. By 2010, it was three times that. I didn't know that. Both Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Defense Gates wanted to fire Karl Eikenberry when he was U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, but "the ambassador was protected by the White House." Gates adds that he thought Eikenberry's Afghan policy "recommendations were ridiculous" and that his "pervasive negativity" permeated the U.S. embassy. In something that might be related, Gates singles out for his disdain Lt. Gen. Doug Lute, the White House policy coordinator for Iraq and Afghanistan. "Doug turned out to be a real disappointment in the Obama administration." At one point, he instructed Gen. James Mattis, then running Central Command, "that if Lute ever called him again to question anything, Mattis was to tell him to go to hell." Just a great line: "I was eating my Kentucky Fried Chicken dinner at home [when] the president called." That could be the first line of a thriller. (OK, just one more Gates item to come.)

  • Gates on Iran: "a kind of national security black hole, directly or indirectly pulling into its gravitational force our relationships with Europe, Russia, China, Israel, and the Arab Gulf states."
  • On Pakistan: "I knew that nothing would change Pakistan’s hedging strategy; to think otherwise was delusional." Later, "I knew they were really no ally at all." (Tom’s question: So how do you leverage a hedging strategy?)
  • In Afghanistan in 2008, the average size of an IED was 10 kilograms. By 2010, it was three times that. I didn’t know that.
  • Both Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Defense Gates wanted to fire Karl Eikenberry when he was U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, but "the ambassador was protected by the White House." Gates adds that he thought Eikenberry’s Afghan policy "recommendations were ridiculous" and that his "pervasive negativity" permeated the U.S. embassy.
  • In something that might be related, Gates singles out for his disdain Lt. Gen. Doug Lute, the White House policy coordinator for Iraq and Afghanistan. "Doug turned out to be a real disappointment in the Obama administration." At one point, he instructed Gen. James Mattis, then running Central Command, "that if Lute ever called him again to question anything, Mattis was to tell him to go to hell."
  • Just a great line: "I was eating my Kentucky Fried Chicken dinner at home [when] the president called." That could be the first line of a thriller.
  • (OK, just one more Gates item to come.)
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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