Apparently, he didn't learn a thing. Or perhaps, more correctly stated, he continues to believe that only the Great American Empire understands military realities.
How else can you explain this?
He [Gates] said when NATO took on the task of helping stabilize all of Afghanistan few or none of the allies "understood what we were getting into as an alliance, that the nature of the mission would change from what they anticipated it was likely to be, being much harder and taking much longer."
The only rational conclusion I can come to, looking at this criticism of his NATO allies, is to posit that Secretary Gates is involved (whether he knows it or not) in projecting the US administration's major mistakes in Afghanistan onto those countries who continued to take on the burden long after Bush basically abandoned the mission.
It was a US government decision to bail on Afghanistan, leaving any hope of mounting an effective counterinsurgency in the dust by choosing to focus militarily on Iraq. It was the US government that decided that taking care of Afghanistan after the initial shock and awe that it manifested there would be a much smaller task. It was the US government that chose to be ignorant in the face of Afghanistan's history with invaders. It was the US government that chose the same war plan (or severe lack thereof) and the same tactics in Afghanistan that it went on to use in Iraq. It's the US government that has failed on both fronts.
And yet Gates has the audacity to insult America's allies once again while only committing to helping Canadian troops in Kandahar after strong-arming France into sending troops to eastern Afghanistan to replace American soldiers posted there? A move was only made, btw, to ensure that Canada's minority Conservative government would follow through on its commitment to extend the mission to 2011 as expressed in a recent motion which was supported by the spineless Liberal party. If those American troops hadn't been pledged to Kandahar, Canada's mission would have ended in February, 2009.
The US only has 17,000 soldiers in Afghanistan. It has 160,000 in Iraq.
Canada lost its 82nd soldier in Afghanistan today.
We don't need to be told by Gates or anyone else about how long or hard this fight has been or that our government was clueless when it signed up for this war in the first place (a decision I was and remain opposed to).
Is it any wonder that US allies are extremely reluctant to send more troops into this failed war zone considering the hubris displayed by people like Gates who would rather lecture and cast blame on every other country than his own?
On top of all of that, we have Bush acting as if he's still going to be the president in 2009:
MUSCAT (Reuters) - President George W. Bush pledged at a NATO summit to provide a "significant" number of extra U.S. troops to the alliance mission in Afghanistan in 2009, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Friday.
"The president indicated that he expected in 2009 that the United States would make a significant additional contribution," Gates said.
I guess he can make those kinds of predictions considering that he will never be held responsible for anything and we know that even if a Democrat wins the presidency (if Bush in fact decides to actually vacate the WH) that both Clinton and Obama have both promised to sink ever more money into the military-industrial complex - feeding the corporate beast almost on par with the Republicans should John McSurge win. But to pledge a "significant" number of troops? What does Bush know that the public doesn't? And what does "significant" mean?
The US military is so completely stretched to the limits thanks to the decisions of the Bush/Cheney/neocon administration and Rumsfeld's Pentagon (with Gates continuing down Rumsfeld's road) that experts have testified that it will take years to restore its capabilities. So, don't count on anything of significance happening on the Afghanistan front any time soon. The only thing we know is that the fighting will go on for a long time to come and soldiers from other NATO countries will continue to die while Gates, apparently, will continue to insult them.