Afghanistan — Gates: More Trainers Would Speed Afghanistan Transition

BRUSSELS, Bel­gium, June 11, 2010 — Sup­port for the mis­sion in Afghanistan from allies and part­ners has increased steadi­ly in the past year, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said here today.

At a news con­fer­ence fol­low­ing the con­clu­sion of two days of meet­ings with his fel­low NATO defense min­is­ters, Gates said the alliance’s defense lead­ers gen­er­al­ly agree that the effort in Afghanistan is mov­ing in the right direc­tion and that they real­ize the road ahead will be long and hard.

They also believe the ele­ments of suc­cess – troops, civil­ians, strat­e­gy, grow­ing Afghan secu­ri­ty forces’ capac­i­ty – are in place or mov­ing for­ward, and that the coali­tion has regained the ini­tia­tive and progress is being made slow­ly, steadi­ly and sus­tain­ably, Gates said.

Army Gen. Stan­ley A. McChrys­tal, com­man­der of inter­na­tion­al and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, briefed the defense min­is­ters today.

“Gen­er­al McChrys­tal told the min­is­ters that he is con­fi­dent that he’ll be able to show progress in the south and across the coun­try, and that the strat­e­gy is work­ing, by the end of the year,” the sec­re­tary said.

More train­ers are need­ed in the effort to train Afghan secu­ri­ty forces, Gates not­ed, an issue he said is direct­ly tied to the pace at which inter­na­tion­al forces will be able to tran­si­tion secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty to the Afghans.

“It seems to me that par­tic­u­lar­ly for those coun­tries that do not have a large com­bat pres­ence in Afghanistan,” the sec­re­tary said, “pro­vid­ing train­ers is anoth­er way to serve.” In a news con­fer­ence ear­li­er today, NATO Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al Anders Fogh Ras­mussen reaf­firmed the alliance’s com­mit­ment to the Afghanistan mis­sion, and not­ed McChrystal’s straight-for­ward assess­ment of progress and chal­lenges.

“What Gen­er­al McChrys­tal heard from all 46 nations around the table was equal­ly straight-for­ward,” the NATO sec­re­tary gen­er­al said. “ISAF will stay as long as it takes to fin­ish the job, because … an unsta­ble Afghanistan where ter­ror­ists can find safe haven is a men­ace to us all, and because a sta­ble Afghanistan means a safer world.”

Ras­mussen said he pushed the alliance’s defense min­is­ters to “dig deep­er” to help the NATO train­ing mission’s 450-train­er short­fall.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)