Gates set to unveil 9/11 memorial

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Al Qaeda sought to make Iraq the central front in the war “and they’re losing,” Mr. Gates said.In Afghanistan, “we won” in 2001, and the Taliban are still out of power. While acknowledging that challenges remain, he said that the fundamentalist Islamist militia does not control a single district.

Mr. Gates also praised foreign nations for their support.

“One of the things that has impressed me, coming back into government, is the range of international cooperation in going after these guys,” he said. “The kind of relationships we had with other countries on this kind of a problem when I left government 15 years ago are dramatically different and broader today.”

Earlier, Mr. Gates told the House Armed Services Committee that the drawdown of some 3,400 U.S. soldiers from Iraq beginning this month and the removal of about 8,000 combat troops in February are the beginning of the “endgame” for U.S. forces there.

“The continuing drawdown is possible because of the success in reducing violence and building Iraqi security capacity,” Mr. Gates said.

He acknowledged that Iraq continues to face many problems, including the prospect of new violence prior to provincial elections, sectarian strife, Iranian influence and “the very real threat al Qaeda continues to pose and the possibility that [Shi’ite] Jaish al-Mahdi could return.”

As the U.S. draws down in Iraq, it will send 3500 more troops to Afghanistan, Mr. Bush said Monday.

Mr. Gates said U.S. and allied forces are working there “to counter a classic extremist insurgency fueled by ideology, poppy, poverty, crime and corruption.”

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the committee that in cutting troop levels in Iraq and sending more forces to Afghanistan “we did not compromise one war for the other.”

The four-star admiral called the conflict in Afghanistan “a complex, difficult struggle that will take time.”

Without a broader international and interagency approach to Afghanistan, he said, “it is my professional opinion that no amount of troops in no amount of time can ever achieve all the objectives we seek in Afghanistan. And frankly, we’re running out of time.”

Afghanistan needs more than “boots on the ground,” he said, including civilian infrastructure and a better system of government and commerce.

Thursday’s ceremony at the Pentagon will mark the opening up of the building to ordinary Americans. The military complex has been largely closed to the public since the 2001 attack.

The memorial consists of 184 lighted benches over water arranged according to the age of the victims. The youngest was three-year old Dana Falkenberg and the oldest was John D. Yamnicky, 71.

The two-acre site includes a walkway that is aligned with the flight path of the hijacked jet. About 80 maple trees adorn the area. After Thursday, the memorial will be open seven days a week.

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About the Author
Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

Mr. ...

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