WASHINGTON - US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has approved a new National Defence Strategy that recommends making fighting al Qaeda and other militant groups the top military priority in coming decades, The Washington Post reported Thursday. The document, which has been shared with US lawmakers but not published, calls for the military to master "irregular" warfare rather than focusing on conventional conflicts with other states, the newspaper said in a front page dispatch. "Iraq and Afghanistan remain the central fronts in the struggle, but we cannot lose sight of the implications of fighting a long-term, episodic, multi-front, and multi-dimensional conflict more complex and diverse than the Cold War confrontation with communism," the Post quoted the 23-page document as saying. "Success in Iraq and Afghanistan is crucial to winning this conflict, but it alone will not bring victory," it said. Since taking office in late 2006, Gates has departed from his predecessor Donald Rumsfeld's focus on preemptive military action, instead encouraging cooperation with other countries to eliminate conditions that breed extremism, the newspaper said. "The use of force plays a role, yet military efforts to capture or kill terrorists are likely to be subordinate to measures to promote local participation in government and economic programmes to spur development, as well as efforts to understand and address the grievances that often lie at the heart of insurgencies," said the document, which Gates approved last month. "For these reasons, arguably the most important military component of the struggle against violent extremists is not the fighting we do ourselves, but how well we help prepare our partners to defend and govern themselves."