A highlight from 60 Minutes 10/17

60 Minutes


Robert Gates served under 8 U.S. presidents ran the CIA and oversaw the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for president's Bush and Obama. Given the rising tensions with China, and the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, we thought it worth hearing what he thinks about how President Biden is doing. It's time for American troops to come home. And the biggest challenges facing the United States. It's an American story. Cattle ranchers in Wyoming, who every spring pushed thousands of cows along the same 70 mile route their ancestors pioneered 125 years ago. The green river drift is the country's longest running cattle drive, and as we saw, it's filled with sensational sunrises. Hard dusty days, all of it worked on horseback. In a changing Britain, nostalgia can reside at the bottom of a glass. In the oh so English village of aldworth in Berkshire, you'll find just a cricket green, a church, a few houses, and a pub resistant to time. The bell inn has been in the family of Heather Macaulay for 200 years. We've talked to some pub owners who've said they felt us pressure to evolve and they're trying Gourmet food and DJs and technology. Well, I don't even have a mobile phone. I'm Lesley Stahl. I'm Bill Whitaker. I'm Anderson Cooper. I'm Sharon alphonse. I'm John wirth I'm. I'm Scott pelley. Those stories and more tonight on 60 minutes. Few people know more about the depth and complexity of America's national security in Robert Gates, who spent nearly three decades at the CIA and National Security Council before running The Pentagon under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Given the end of the war in Afghanistan, tensions with China and deep divisions in this country, we thought it would be worth hearing from the only Secretary of Defense to serve under presidents from different parties. Gates is 78 and lives in Washington state where he says he moved to get as far away from Washington, D.C. as possible. He told us watching the chaos of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan on television made him feel sick. It was really tough. For a few days there, I actually wasn't feeling very well. And I realized it was because of what was happening in Kabul, and I was just so low about the way it had ended, if you will. And I guess the other feeling that I had was that it probably did not need to have turned out that way. Prison Biden said any withdrawal is messy. Certainly the military considers the withdrawal the most dangerous part of an operation. But they really had a lot of time to plan. Beginning with the deal that president Trump cut with the Taliban. So that was in February. Of 2020. Robert Gates who oversaw the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2006 to 2011, told us president Trump failed to plan properly for the evacuation of Afghans who'd helped the U.S. fight the Taliban. And Gates also believes President Biden didn't act quickly enough after announcing in April he was pushing back president Trump's deadline for the U.S. withdrawal by four months. It's time for American troops to come home. Once President Biden reaffirmed that there was going to be a firm deadline date. That's the point at which I think they should have begun bringing these people out. You'd have to be pretty naive not to assume things were going to go downhill. Once that withdrawal was complete. So the former president and President Biden, both share some responsibility in this. Absolutely. As for the collapse of the Afghan government and security forces, Gates believes he and others before him made critical mistakes and helped the U.S. built and trained the Afghan military. I bear some responsibility for this. It had started before I got there. But I think that we created an Afghan military in our own image. And one that required a lot more sophisticated logistics and maintenance and support than say the Taliban. The Taliban didn't have years of training from foreign advisers. They didn't know how to read. We were teaching Afghan troops how to read before anything else. Well, they needed to know how to read in order to operate the equipment we were giving them instead of being light and tactical and basically self resourced as the Taliban were. We created a logistics heavy sophisticated equipment heavy military. And when you pulled that rug out from under them and you add on top of that, the corruption of the senior military leaders and so on. It's not a surprise to me that the Afghan army collapsed. We all maintain the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan. President Biden has given assurances that the U.S. can still target terrorists in Afghanistan. We have what's called over the horizon capabilities. Which means we can strike terrorists and targets without American boots on the ground or very few if needed. But Robert Gates is skeptical. The military reversed to it is over the over the rainbow 'cause it's a fantasy. This notion that you can carry out effective counter terrorism in Afghanistan from a great distance. It's not a fantasy, but it's just very, very hard. As evidenced by the botched drone strike in Kabul in the final days of the withdrawal. The U.S. Military claimed they'd killed an ISIS terrorist and turned out to be an Afghan aid worker and 7 children. If you don't have the kind of sources on the ground to have kind of real-time intelligence that allows you to target people, it's very complicated. If they can't get that right a few blocks from the Kabul airport, are you going to get something right over the horizon? Exactly. When he was Secretary of Defense, Gates would write personal condolence letters to the families of fallen service members. We wondered what he would say to them now and to all who fought in Afghanistan. I would say that you accomplished your mission. There has not been a terrorist attack a successful foreign based terrorist attack on the United States since we went in to Afghanistan in 2001. What happens now that we're gone remains to be seen? Before becoming Secretary of Defense, Gates spent nearly 27 years at the National Security Council and the CIA, which he ran under president George H. W. Bush, Gates and President Biden have crossed paths for decades as he wrote about in 2014. You wrote Joe Biden was a man of integrity. Still, I think he's been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades. I think he's gotten a lot wrong. You're talking all through the years as vice president and supposed every one of Ronald Reagan's military programs to contest the Soviet Union. He opposed the first Gulf War that list goes on. Now I will say that in the Obama administration, he and I obviously had significant differences over Afghanistan, but he and I did agree in our opposition to the intervention in Libya. And frankly on issues relating to Russia and China. But you think he made a mistake in Afghanistan in the way he handled the withdrawal? Yes. Do you think he believes he made a mistake?

Coming up next