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Pentagon's new chief pledges to find solutions in Iraq
Latest Updated by 2006-12-19 09:03:51
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Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (2nd L) attends his swearing-in ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, Dec. 18, 2006. From L-R are: President Bush, Gates, his wife, Becky Gates, and Vice President Dick Cheney .(Xinhua Photo)
 
Robert Gates, the new U.S. defense secretary, on Monday pledged to go to Iraq soon in search of a solution to the violence and warned that failure in Iraq will be unbearable for the United States.

"I intend to travel quite soon to Iraq and meet with our military leaders and other personnel there," Gates said at his sworn-in ceremony at the Pentagon.

"I look forward to hearing their honest assessments of the situation on the ground and to having the benefit of their advice, unvarnished and straight from the shoulder, on how to proceed in the weeks and months ahead," he said.

Gates stressed that the United States could not afford a failure in Iraq.

"All of us want to find a way to bring America's sons and daughters home again, but, as the president has made clear, we simply cannot afford to fail in the Middle East," he said, noting that "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."

Although putting Iraq at the top of his list of major concerns, the new defense secretary said he did not forget Afghanistan, where U.S. forces overthrew the Taliban regime shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"The progress made by the Afghan people over the past five years is at risk...," he said. "Afghanistan cannot be allowed to become a sanctuary for extremists again."

"The right man to meet challenges"

At the ceremony, U.S. President George W. Bush praised Gates as "the right man to meet the military challenges confronting the United States."

"We are a nation at war," the president said, "and I rely on our secretary of defense 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."

Bush said he was counting on Gates to bring a "fresh perspective" to the Pentagon as the United States charts "a new way forward in Iraq" to build a country that can govern, sustain and defend itself and be an ally in the war against "extremists and radicals."

The change of guard at Pentagon was taking place at a crucial juncture in the Iraq war, a conflict that cost Donald Rumsfeld the job of defense secretary and will likely define Gates' Pentagon tenure.

When U.S. President George W. Bush announced last month that he will change Pentagon chiefs, he said he wanted "fresh perspective" on Iraq, acknowledging that the current approach was "not working well enough."

Rumsfeld was a chief architect of the war strategy and still defends the decision to invade in March 2003.

Uphill tasks ahead

Gates took office amid a wide-ranging administration review of its approach to the war.

Bush said last week that he would wait until January to announce his new strategy, to give the new defense secretary a chance to offer advice.

Last Wednesday, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly endorsed the nomination of Gates as the country's new defense secretary.

On Nov. 6, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly endorsed the nomination of Gates as the country's new defense secretary.

Senators from both parties said the former CIA director is candid, largely because he told them that the country was not winning the war in Iraq.

They also expected him to face an uphill task, given the situation in Iraq.

Gates served for 26 years in CIA and the National Security Council. Under President George H. W. Bush, he served as CIA director.

Soft-spoken but tough-minded, the new defense secretary is seen as in many ways the antithesis of Rumsfeld, the brash leader he would replace.

Gates has been critical of the Bush administration's failure to execute its military and political plans for Iraq, and has spent time debating new approaches to the war as a member of the Iraq Study Group, the bipartisan panel which released a key report to recommend major policy changes in Iraq early this month.

Editor: Yan

By: Source: China View website
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