USA/Großbritannien — Gates, Fox, Reaffirm Afghanistan Commitment

LONDON, June 8, 2010 — Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates and his British coun­ter­part today reaf­firmed their nations’ com­mit­ment to suc­cess in Afghanistan.

Gates and British Defense Sec­re­tary Liam Fox pro­vid­ed their per­spec­tives at a news con­fer­ence fol­low­ing a meet­ing here that touched on a vari­ety of top­ics.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s tar­get of start­ing a tran­si­tion next sum­mer toward Afghanistan being respon­si­ble for its own secu­ri­ty is just the begin­ning of that process, Gates said, and it will progress from that point as con­di­tions allow. In any event, he added, the Unit­ed States will not aban­don Afghanistan as it did after the Sovi­et Union was dri­ven out of the coun­try in 1989.

“I think one of the impor­tant mes­sages that we tried to com­mu­ni­cate dur­ing [Afghan] Pres­i­dent [Hamid] Karzai’s vis­it to Wash­ing­ton – and that I think is impor­tant for all of us to com­mu­ni­cate – is that we intend, as an alliance and as a large group of nations, to be Afghanistan’s part­ner for a very long time into the future,” he said.

The nature of that rela­tion­ship will start tran­si­tion­ing next sum­mer toward few­er mil­i­tary forces and more civil­ian efforts geared toward devel­op­men­tal and build­ing Afghanistan’s econ­o­my, Gates explained, call­ing it “the kind of devel­op­men­tal rela­tion­ship that many of us have with a num­ber of devel­op­ing states around the world.”

When Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron was form­ing the new coali­tion gov­ern­ment here in May and asked him to take on the defense sec­re­tary posi­tion, Fox said, the first ques­tion he asked him­self was, “Should we be in Afghanistan?”

“I’ve seen the human cost to our armed forces them­selves [and] the sac­ri­fices that they’re mak­ing, and when I did ask the ques­tion, the answer had to be, of course, ‘Yes,’ ” he said. “I still believe that there’s a nation­al secu­ri­ty imper­a­tive. I believe that we can­not afford Afghanistan to lapse back into a failed state, which would cre­ate a secu­ri­ty vac­u­um which will con­t­a­m­i­nate the region and pos­si­bly well beyond it.”

The Unit­ed King­dom is com­mit­ted to see­ing its involve­ment in Afghanistan to res­o­lu­tion, Fox said, which he defined as cre­at­ing an Afghanistan sta­ble enough to han­dle its inter­nal and exter­nal secu­ri­ty. That goal illus­trates the impor­tance of NATO’s train­ing mis­sion in Afghanistan, he said, not­ing that he and Gates will seek more train­ers for that mis­sion when they meet in Brus­sels, Bel­gium, with their NATO coun­ter­parts lat­er this week.

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