Thursday, September 04, 2008

Obama and Gates in sync on Pakistan

Reporting today on a U.S. raid inside Pakistani territory, the Times noted this major point of congruence between Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Obama: (hat tip, Sullivan):
But the commando raid by the American forces signaled what top American officials said could be the opening salvo in a much broader campaign by Special Operations forces against the Taliban and Al Qaeda inside Pakistan, a secret plan that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has been advocating for months within President Bush’s war council.
As noted at the time in this blog, Gates in fact signaled his wish to move inside Pakistan with a very pointed "invitation" to Pakistani leadership back in January (reported in the FT, Jan. 25):

The US would consider conducting joint military operations against extremists inside Pakistan if requested by Islamabad, Robert Gates, US defence secretary, said on Thursday.

“We remain ready, willing and able to assist the Pakistanis and to partner with them to provide additional training, to conduct joint operations, should they desire to do so,” Mr Gates said.

He said Pakistan had not asked for US forces to help conduct operations with Pakistani forces. But he said Washington and Islamabad were discussing ways in which the US might help Pakistani forces better deal with growing internal threat from Islamic militant groups affiliated with al-Qaeda.

“This is clearly an evolving issue. And what we have tried to communicate to the Pakistanis is we are prepared to look at a range of co-operation with them in a number of different areas.
Further evidence that Gates and Obama are in major respects on the same page (though Gates has likely been worried about Obama's withdrawal timetable). Here's hoping that if Obama is elected he asks Gates to stay on, and Gates accepts.

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