Afghanistan — Cooperation Will Endure, Gates Tells Embassy Employees

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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