USA/France — Gates, Morin Confirm Shared Goals for Afghanistan, Iran

WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2010 — Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates and French Defense Min­is­ter Herve Morin today con­firmed their shared goals to fight ter­ror­ism in Afghanistan and else­where, and to con­tin­ue to pres­sure Iran to end its nuclear pro­gram.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, right, accompanies French Defense Minister Herve Morin upon his arrival at the Pentagon
Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates, right, accom­pa­nies French Defense Min­is­ter Herve Morin upon his arrival at the Pen­ta­gon for a Sept. 16, 2010, lun­cheon meet­ing.
DoD pho­to by R.D. Ward
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Dur­ing a Pen­ta­gon news con­fer­ence that fol­lowed meet­ings between the two defense lead­ers, Gates called France a strong part­ner, both in the fight and in train­ing Afghan secu­ri­ty forces. France also has been a leader in sanc­tions against Iran, in the fight against al-Qai­da in Africa, and in revi­tal­iz­ing NATO, he said.

“Our bilat­er­al rela­tion­ship is huge­ly pow­er­ful at the polit­i­cal and mil­i­tary lev­el,” Morin said. He added that his rela­tion­ship with Gates is “a rela­tion­ship of trust.”

“There is huge con­fi­dence between the two of us,” he said.

The two spoke most­ly about the U.S.-NATO cam­paign in Afghanistan, Gates said.

Gates, who recent­ly returned from a vis­it to Afghanistan, dis­missed sug­ges­tions that he and mil­i­tary lead­ers are over­ly opti­mistic on the cam­paign they are due to assess in a Decem­ber report.

“Most of us try to err on the side of cau­tion because of our pre­vi­ous expe­ri­ences, par­tic­u­lar­ly in Iraq, where peo­ple were too opti­mistic, and cer­tain­ly too opti­mistic pre­ma­ture­ly,” he said.

Gates said both he and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, com­man­der of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, are cau­tious­ly opti­mistic about the mil­i­tary and civil­ian accom­plish­ments there, espe­cial­ly in the growth and com­pe­ten­cy of the Afghan mil­i­tary.

“He will be cau­tious and I will be cau­tious,” he said, adding that the last of the 30,000 addi­tion­al troops Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma ordered to Afghanistan in Decem­ber arrived in Afghanistan only in August.

The Afghan police remain a tougher chal­lenge, Gates acknowl­edged, but he added that “it’s been tougher all along, and it was tougher in Iraq” “I don’t want to mis­lead any­body,” Gates said. “This is a hard fight. We have hard days ahead. We will lose more kids. But I think Gen­er­al Petraeus has the feel­ing we are on the right track.”

Morin was unequiv­o­cal in the need for the French to remain in Afghanistan.

“There can­not be a Euro­pean speech or posi­tion where we announce we are pulling out,” he said, “because that would be the best way to encour­age the Tal­iban.”

Asked about French cit­i­zens’ com­mit­ment to Afghanistan, Morin acknowl­edged it is hard­er to con­vince Euro­peans of the need for the war, because they haven’t felt as con­nect­ed to the al-Qai­da threat that orig­i­nat­ed there. Although the French par­lia­ment banned cit­i­zens from wear­ing the burqa, a total-body cov­er the Tal­iban forced on Afghan women, Morin said no threats of hos­til­i­ties result­ed from the new law.

Morin, who also recent­ly vis­it­ed Afghanistan, spoke of the progress there, espe­cial­ly in the con­struc­tion of roads and schools, and the return of chil­dren to school. “Every­one is con­vinced today that the suc­cess comes from the mil­i­tary and civil­ian efforts com­ing togeth­er,” he said.

He also spoke of the progress of the Afghan mil­i­tary.

“In the begin­ning, I saw an Afghan army that was not an army,” he said. “Now, they are mil­i­tary troops per­fect­ly capa­ble of oper­a­tions.”

The defense lead­ers were equal­ly in step on their posi­tion on main­tain­ing sanc­tions against Iran because of its nuclear pro­gram. Gates thanked Morin for his lead­er­ship on the issue, and said the addi­tion­al mea­sures coun­tries have tak­en have been even more severe than the sanc­tions passed by the Unit­ed Nations Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion.

Morin not­ed that the Euro­pean Union, South Korea, and Japan are among those who have adopt­ed stricter sanc­tions. “All of us are con­vinced of one thing: we have to show absolute deter­mi­na­tion. … No one should show any kind of weak­ness.”

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

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