KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 9, 2010 — Cooperation between the U.S. military and diplomatic missions in Afghanistan will endure beyond the end of combat, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told embassy workers here today.
After spending two days in Afghanistan visiting troops and meeting with U.S. and Afghan leaders, the secretary stopped by to speak to employees at what has become the largest U.S. diplomatic mission in the world.
“This embassy has accomplished extraordinary things over the past two years,” Gates said. “You’ve more than tripled the number of U.S. civilians in the country while dramatically expanding your operations. As we say over at Defense, you’ve built the plane while flying it.”
Gates told the embassy employees their work is the linchpin of President Barack Obama’s strategy in Afghanistan.
“We must implement the president’s pledge that the U.S. is committed to a long-term, enduring partnership that will help the Afghan people build the peaceful, prosperous, strong and independent country they want,” he said. “This mission will continue even after our military effort transitions from combat to a more conventional training and assistance mission.”
U.S. military and civilian efforts must continue to grow and evolve together, the secretary said. He explained that the military and civilian instruments of U.S. power were set up in a different era for a very different set of threats from those the nation faces today.
“Our military was set up to defeat other armies, navies and air forces – not advise, train and assist them,” he said. “Likewise, our civilian agencies were designed primarily to manage relationships between states from the capital, rather than to get out in the field and help from the ground level.” Today, Gates said, the most likely and lethal threats likely will emanate from fractured or failing states.
The U.S. military and civilian teamwork in Afghanistan not only will be the key to succeeding in the current conflict, the secretary said, but also will be critical in helping the agencies learn how best to collaborate to protect the United States in the future.
Gates noted that George Marshall — the only person who has served as both secretary of state and secretary of defense and the mastermind of the Marshall Plan for post-World War II Europe – understood how the different instruments of U.S. power can and should work together.
“He said something that I think has great resonance for your work here: ‘Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine, but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos,’” Gates told the embassy employees. “And that ultimately, ‘Military power wins battles, but spiritual power wins wars.’”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
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