Gates: NATO Commitment is Crucial to Afghanistan

BRUSSELS, Bel­gium, March 11, 2011 — Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates chal­lenged a gath­er­ing of 48 NATO defense min­is­ters here today to com­mit mon­ey and peo­ple, at what he called “a crit­i­cal junc­ture for our mis­sion in Afghanistan.”
“There will be hard­er and heav­ier fight­ing to come in the months ahead, and … many of the gains we have seen could be reversed if we do not remain ful­ly com­mit­ted to this effort,” the sec­re­tary said.

NATO defense min­is­ters and those from oth­er coun­tries that con­tribute troops to the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force in Afghanistan, along with Afghan Defense Min­is­ter Abdul Rahim War­dak, met to dis­cuss the Joint Afghan-NATO Tran­si­tion Board’s rec­om­men­da­tions for the first areas where respon­si­bil­i­ty for secu­ri­ty will trans­fer to Afghan forces. 

Gates empha­sized three main items: ISAF accom­plish­ments over the past year; his con­cern progress could be threat­ened by unco­or­di­nat­ed nation­al troop draw­downs; and how to plan for a delib­er­ate tran­si­tion to Afghan lead. 

Since the 30,000-troop surge Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma announced in Decem­ber 2009, addi­tion­al forces have “allowed us to sig­nif­i­cant­ly expand, and move clos­er to link­ing, zones of secu­ri­ty in the cru­cial south and east,” Gates said. 

The Tal­iban con­trol far less ter­ri­to­ry and have lost much of their abil­i­ty to oper­ate, he said, and “a sem­blance of nor­mal­cy is emerg­ing for the Afghan people.” 

Fierce fight­ing will come in the months ahead, Gates said, but “now, our forces will have home field advantage.” 

That advan­tage will be threat­ened, the sec­re­tary cau­tioned, if ISAF nations don’t “main­tain the uni­ty and com­mit­ment … we expressed at Lisbon.” 

“There is too much talk about leav­ing and not enough talk about get­ting the job done right,” he said. 

Gates said he rec­og­nizes the intense pres­sure many nations face to reduce their ISAF contributions. 

“We have all made extra­or­di­nary con­tri­bu­tions to this effort, in the face of fis­cal aus­ter­i­ty and polit­i­cal pres­sure,” he said, not­ing the Unit­ed States now has near­ly 100,000 troops in Afghanistan and spends $120 bil­lion a year on the war, while DOD seeks $12.8 bil­lion for build­ing the Afghan army and police. 

Like many ISAF nations, the Unit­ed States suf­fered more casu­al­ties last year than in any oth­er year of the war, Gates said. 

“To ensure that these sac­ri­fices are not squan­dered, we need to keep our focus on suc­ceed­ing in our mis­sions, and not get pulled away pre­ma­ture­ly,” he said. 

Con­di­tions are right to begin draw­down in July, Gates said, but it must be based on con­di­tions and man­aged in full NATO coordination. 

“We will not sac­ri­fice the sig­nif­i­cant gains made to date, or the lives lost, for a polit­i­cal ges­ture,” the sec­re­tary said. 

Gates endorsed the tran­si­tion imple­ment­ing prin­ci­ples pre­sent­ed at the ses­sion as offer­ing “strate­gic reas­sur­ance to the Afghans and clear guid­ance for our forces.” 

The prin­ci­ple of con­ti­nu­ity ensures lead nations for region­al com­mands, task forces and provin­cial leads remain account­able for suc­cess in their assigned areas through­out tran­si­tion, he said. 

“Anoth­er prin­ci­ple, rein­vest­ment of forces, espe­cial­ly as train­ers and men­tors, would com­mit us to fill­ing a sig­nif­i­cant short­fall that has ham­pered our efforts,” he said. 

Endur­ing suc­cess can only come through build­ing Afghan secu­ri­ty forces, Gates said, chal­leng­ing ISAF nations to pro­vide $1 bil­lion annu­al­ly to the Afghan Nation­al Army Trust Fund. 

Rule of law is a key area, the sec­re­tary said, not­ing a gov­er­nance vac­u­um helped set con­di­tions for Tal­iban dom­i­nance 20 years ago and remains a problem. 

ISAF sup­port to Afghan growth of basic gov­ern­ment-pro­vid­ed dis­pute res­o­lu­tion in key areas, the sec­re­tary said, can help “fos­ter the rein­te­gra­tion and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion of for­mer insur­gents, and to com­bat cor­rup­tion that under­mines trust in the Afghan government.” 

In that con­text, he ful­ly sup­ports the pro­posed NATO Rule of Law Field Sup­port Mis­sion ISAF coali­tion nations are con­sid­er­ing, he said. 

The mis­sion would com­bine liai­son and secu­ri­ty sup­port to Afghan and inter­na­tion­al civil­ian experts in dis­pute res­o­lu­tion, Gates said, adding, “If we don’t win here, the Tal­iban will.” 

Gates asked min­is­ters to “abide by the prin­ci­ple of ‘in togeth­er, out together.’ ” 

“Resist the urge to do what is polit­i­cal­ly expe­di­ent, and have the courage of patience,” he concluded. 

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

Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →