Beyond 2014: Mullen Vows Long-Term US Presence in Afghanistan

Struggling to Defend War to Senate, Gates Insists 2014 Is 'End'

The Obama Administration’s top two defense officials issued starkly different comments over the past two days on the Afghan War, with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates desperately struggling to defend the war to the Senate and Admiral Michael Mullen bluntly insisting it will continue on.

Responding to a letter from 27 Senators urging President Obama to change course in Afghanistan, Gates shot back to the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee that Afghanistan is “not a war without end” and insisting that 2014 was the end date.

Which might’ve relieved many, if Admiral Michael Mullen had not offered a completely opposite assessment on the Charlie Rose show, declaring that a continued US presence beyond 2014 was a certainty and that any drawdown in July did not signal the beginning of the end of the decade-long conflict.

After a decade of ever-worsening conditions, it is ironically administration claims of progress, dubious as they are, that has fueled the Senate change in position. The war’s massive costs and the “major gains” the administration are claiming simply don’t add up for many, particularly in a nation beset with massive deficits.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of