Afghanistan/USA — U.S., Afghan Defense Leaders Agree to Long-Term Partnership

WASHINGTON, May 11, 2010 — Senior U.S. and Afghan offi­cials today agreed to explore ways to broad­en and deep­en defense coop­er­a­tion between the two coun­tries and estab­lish a long-term part­ner­ship for the future, Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary Geoff Mor­rell said.

Afghan Minister of Defense Abdul Rahim Wardak
Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates, right, talks with his guest, Afghan Min­is­ter of Defense Abdul Rahim War­dak, as they walk through a cor­don of hon­or guards dur­ing May 11, 2010, arrival cer­e­monies at the Pen­ta­gon. The two defense lead­ers, joined by Afghan Min­is­ter of the Inte­ri­or Mohammed Hanif Atmar and oth­er senior defense offi­cials from both nations, met to exam­ine the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion in Afghanistan and dis­cuss the way for­ward.
DoD pho­to by R. D. Ward
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Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates today host­ed Afghan Defense Min­is­ter Abdul Rahim War­dak, Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter Moham­mad Hanif Atmar and Afghan Intel­li­gence Chief Amrul­lah Saleh dur­ing a 90-minute Pen­ta­gon meet­ing.

The meet­ing is part of a series of dis­cus­sions between U.S. and Afghan offi­cials built around Afghan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai’s vis­it here.

“This is a very impor­tant week for our part­ner­ship, for our rela­tion­ship,” Gates told the group at the top of the meet­ing.

Chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, Michele Flournoy, the under­sec­re­tary of defense for pol­i­cy; Army Gen. Stan­ley McChrys­tal, the U.S. and NATO com­man­der in Afghanistan; and Mike Vick­ers, the assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for spe­cial oper­a­tions and low-inten­si­ty con­flict, joined Gates and the senior Afghan offi­cials in the meet­ing. Mor­rell said the meet­ing went well and there was broad agree­ment among the par­ties on the way for­ward in Afghanistan. “This is about, how do we build an endur­ing, long-term part­ner­ship with Afghanistan,” he said.

The two coun­tries agreed to begin a reg­u­lar, high-lev­el defense dia­logue, Mor­rell said. Details such as how often meet­ings are held and who the play­ers are, he said, are yet to be worked out, but the agree­ment sig­ni­fies the Unit­ed States’ con­cern for Afghanistan and its desire to remain involved with that coun­try.

“ ‘The rela­tion­ship must be an endur­ing one; it is in our mutu­al inter­ests to do this,’ ” Mor­rell quot­ed Gates as say­ing.

The offi­cials dis­cussed how the rela­tion­ship should evolve. Gates believes that the rela­tion­ship between the Unit­ed States and Afghanistan must be endur­ing and not pred­i­cat­ed just on the need to fight the cur­rent war. The Unit­ed States, Mor­rell said, stands ready to con­tin­ue train­ing, equip­ping and advis­ing Afghan secu­ri­ty forces, and in assist­ing in coun­ternar­cotics and coun­tert­er­ror­ism efforts long after the cur­rent con­flict has been decid­ed.

The Unit­ed States wants to reas­sure the Afghan gov­ern­ment that it “is not going to repeat the mis­takes of the late ’80s and ear­ly ’90s, when we turned our back [on Afghanistan and Pak­istan] and walked away from the rela­tion­ships,” Mor­rell said. “I think there is clear­ly … a trust deficit … that clear­ly needs to be addressed.”

The group also talked about region­al secu­ri­ty and the evolv­ing tri­lat­er­al rela­tion­ship among Afghanistan, Pak­istan and the Unit­ed States. They dis­cussed devel­op­ments of the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces. Gates not­ed the suc­cess the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces have had with increas­ing their num­bers. “Obvi­ous­ly, there are qual­i­ty issues that need to be addressed in the long term,” Mor­rell said.

The group also dis­cussed the tran­si­tion of secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty to Afghan forces. They dis­cussed the July 2011 date that Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma has set to begin that tran­si­tion. “Every­body was in agree­ment that tran­si­tion was a process, not an event,” Mor­rell said. “July 2011 will be the begin­ning of a con­di­tions-based process. But even as that process evolves, we will enjoy a robust mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary part­ner­ship well into the future.”

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