October 21, 2009 / 3:33 AM / 10 years ago

Gates denies rift on Afghan war strategy

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (L) talks with Japan's Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada at the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo October 20, 2009. The United States wants to stick to a deal on realigning U.S. troops in Japan, Defense Secretary Gates said on Tuesday, giving Japan's new government little room to move on an issue that could test ties. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

TOKYO (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said on Wednesday that there was no rift between President Barack Obama’s military and civilian advisers on the Afghan war strategy.

“These rumors of some kind of rift are just not accurate and do not reflect the close working effort between our military and civilians,” Gates told a news conference during a visit to Japan.

President Hamid Karzai agreed to face a second round of voting in Afghanistan’s disputed election on Tuesday after a U.N.-led fraud inquiry tossed out enough of his votes to trigger a run-off.

Karzai’s decision eased tensions with the West and removed one stumbling block for U.S. President Barack Obama as he weighs whether to send more troops to Afghanistan to fight a resurgent Taliban.

Many within Obama’s Democratic Party have spoken out against sending more troops, while Republican opponents say his lengthy deliberations on a new strategy are undermining U.S. troops and emboldening the Taliban.

Gates reiterated that the problems surrounding the legitimacy of the Afghan government would not be resolved by a runoff alone and described the situation as an “evolutionary process.”

“Clearly, having the runoff, getting it behind us and then moving forward is very important, “ he said.

“But I think we need to be realistic that the issues of corruption and governance that we are trying to work with the Afghan government on are not going to be solved simply by the outcome of the presidential election. This is going to be a work in progress, an evolutionary process, and we need to be realistic on that.”

Obama administration officials have stressed earlier that for Washington to succeed in Afghanistan it is essential that there be a legitimate and credible government in Kabul.

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