Gates: Afghanistan Is ‘Greatest Military Challenge Right Now’

Secretary of Defense Also Insists Afghanistan Will Never Be Valhalla

If we set ourselves the objective of creating some sort of central Asian Valhalla over there, we will lose, because nobody in the world has that kind of time, patience and money, to be honest.”

While speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates declared Afghanistan “our greatest military challenge right now,” while trying to downplay expectations for any sort of success in the planned escalation, which will add 30,000 more US troops to the nation in short order.

Perhaps most interesting in what was a typical ‘stay the course but don’t expect any real progress’ statement on Afghanistan was the choice of imagery: a central Asian Valhalla. In Norse mythology, Valhalla was the massive hall of the slain, where those who died in combat continue to do battle every day while preparing for the end of the world. With Vice President Biden predicting that there would be an uptick in the number of US soldiers killed in the seemingly endless war, turning Afghanistan into a resting place for enormous numbers of slain warriors seems to be one of the few things the US has shown itself quite capable of.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.