Despite insisting that the US has “no interest in permanent bases,” Secretary of Defense Robert Gates today predicted that the US would remain in Afghanistan long past 2014 and that the idea of permanent bases was something to consider “if Afghans want it.”
Of course it was confirmed last month by Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the US has long been seeking permanent military bases in Afghanistan, and had been in secret talks with his government to formalize the continuation.
Likewise, Gates’ claim of “if Afghans want it” seems to fly in the face of public protests against the permanent bases that came in the wake of Karzai’s admission. The plan has been moving forward largely in spite of Afghan hopes that the occupation will eventually end.
And Gates’ comments on keeping troops there beyond 2014, nominally because Afghan officials want it, suggest that the groundwork is already being laid for yet another disavowal of an end date, and no new date is in sight.