Gates: State Department Needs Full Funding in Iraq

DURHAM, N.C., Sept. 29, 2010 — Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates expressed con­cern today that Con­gress could doom suc­cess­es achieved in Iraq by fail­ing to prop­er­ly fund the civil­ian-led efforts required to ensure they stick.

“I wor­ry that hav­ing invest­ed hun­dreds of bil­lions of dol­lars and thou­sands of lives in Iraq, that now that we are at the end game, we will stint on the resources need­ed to bring this to the kind of con­clu­sion we all want,” Gates told about 300 ROTC stu­dents from Duke Uni­ver­si­ty and sev­er­al of its neigh­bor­ing col­leges here.

Gates called the orga­ni­za­tion of remain­ing U.S. forces — six advise-and-assist brigades with “a clear under­stand­ing of the mis­sion” — one of the great strengths of the Oper­a­tion New Dawn cam­paign that marked the offi­cial end of U.S. com­bat oper­a­tions and a tran­si­tion to civil­ian-led oper­a­tions in Iraq.

Anoth­er, he said, is the “unher­ald­ed logis­tics mir­a­cle” that occurred dur­ing the draw­down of troops and equip­ment.

Any weak­ness of the cam­paign has noth­ing to do with the mil­i­tary, he said, but with the fact that the State Depart­ment has inad­e­quate fund­ing to take over the respon­si­bil­i­ties Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma has assigned it.

Gates not­ed, for exam­ple, that the State Depart­ment is pro­grammed to take over respon­si­bil­i­ty for Iraqi police train­ing over the course of the next year. Yet when it sub­mit­ted its bud­get request to cov­er that effort and estab­lish “branch embassies” that would pro­vide a diplo­mat­ic civil­ian pres­ence through­out Iraq, Con­gress made “a big cut,” he said.

“These are rel­a­tive­ly small sums of mon­ey we are talk­ing about that we need at this point to con­vert to a civil­ian-dom­i­nat­ed role in Iraq,” Gates said, shak­ing his head.

“So now … the State Depart­ment has to go back and fig­ure out how to adjust our plans,” he said. “How do we do this in a dif­fer­ent way with few­er resources?”

Gates said he shared con­cern about this quandary when he met with Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton, Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Tim Gei­th­n­er and Rajiv Shah, direc­tor of the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment, at the U.S. Glob­al Lead­er­ship Coali­tion.

Gates said the sit­u­a­tion reminds him of the last scene in the movie, “Char­lie Wilson’s War.”

“The Unit­ed States had spent bil­lions to help the Muja­hadeen dri­ve the Sovi­ets out of Afghanistan,” Gates said, not­ing that Wil­son had been the con­gress­man most respon­si­ble for secur­ing that mon­ey.

“And after the Sovi­ets are gone, he goes to the same com­mit­tee and asks for a mil­lion dol­lars for Afghan schools, and he can’t get it,” Gates said.

Gates also under­scored the impor­tance of gov­er­nance and devel­op­ment in Afghanistan – efforts he said are crit­i­cal to the U.S. strat­e­gy there – dur­ing a ques­tion-and-answer ses­sion fol­low­ing his address as part of the Ambas­sador David S. Phillips Fam­i­ly Inter­na­tion­al Lec­ture­ship.

“The real­i­ty is, you can’t have devel­op­ment with­out secu­ri­ty or secu­ri­ty with­out devel­op­ment,” he told an audi­ence of about 1,200 Duke Uni­ver­si­ty stu­dents and fac­ul­ty mem­bers, with anoth­er 600 watch­ing from an over­flow room.

“And what I have argued for a long time is that our own civil­ian resources need to be increased in this area, because the mil­i­tary ends up doing things that real­ly are the prov­i­dence of bet­ter trained and more pro­fes­sion­al experts in this area in the civil­ian world,” Gates said.

That issue was the sub­ject of Gates’ last major address to a civil­ian uni­ver­si­ty audi­ence, at Kansas State University’s Lan­don Lec­ture series in Novem­ber 2007.

Dur­ing that speech, Gates called on the Unit­ed States to strength­en all ele­ments of its nation­al pow­er – the “soft” pow­er as well as “hard” mil­i­tary might — to face chal­lenges in Iraq and Afghanistan and oth­ers it will con­front in the future.

“I am here to make the case for strength­en­ing our capac­i­ty to use soft pow­er, and for bet­ter inte­grat­ing it with hard pow­er,’ ” he told the Kansas atten­dees.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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