Media Availability with Secretary of Defense Gates and Minister of Defense General Lieutenant Ismail Isakovich Isakov from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
(Note: Minister Isakov's remarks are through an interpreter.)
MIN. ISAKOV: Dear ladies and gentlemen, we met with the Defense Secretary of the United States, Mr. Gates, as part of his official visit -- (inaudible). I consider these talks as very successful, and I'm ready to answer your questions -- (inaudible).
SEC. GATES: I want to thank the minister for his hospitality. It's a pleasure to be here -- (inaudible). I've had the opportunity to talk with him, spend some time together. We discussed a wide range of issues, including the cooperation in the war on terror, in particular the role that Kyrgzstan is playing in helping some 42 other nations assist the Afghan government in fighting the Taliban.
We discussed our bilateral military relationships and the opportunity for expanding that relationship, and I think we have a broad agenda to pursue. And we also talked about some opportunity for expanding the military side of the relationship, including economic -- including business -- (inaudible).
Q (Name and affiliation inaudible) – welcome to Kyrgyzstan and my question is, how do you describe the current state of political and security progress between the United States and Kyrgyzstan? Thank you.
SEC. GATES: I would say that the relationship between ourselves and Kyrgzstan is quite positive.
I would say that our meeting reflected not only a resolution of some issues in the past in terms of frank conversations and actions that have been taken, but also looking for opportunities for further expanding that relationship, both military and non-military.
Q (Through interpreter.) (Name inaudible) -- Associated Press. In the Kyrgyz society there's a growing mood of -- negative mood against the placement of the coalition air base at the Manas Airport. Would you accept the request of the Kyrgyz Republic to reconsider the agreement on the base, in part of lifting the diplomatic immunity for the base -- (inaudible).
SEC. GATES: The arrangements that we have at Manas are similar to those that other nations have who have military forces here in Kyrgyzstan, I think that seems appropriate. We have a joint commission that addresses specific problems that come up.
I think what is important for the people of Kyrgyzstan to understand is that our use of Manas is in support of a larger war on terror in which Kyrgyzstan is an ally of virtually every other nation on Earth.
We are all working to try and prevent a resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and our use of Manas is one way in which Kyrgyzstan can play a very important and constructive role in cooperation with many other nations, just not the United States.
Q Mr Secretary, Secretary Gates, can you give us your assessment of the impact of the ruling by the military judges at Guantanamo that they lack jurisdiction over some of the enemy combatants because of the way the Military Commissions Act drawn up? And what do you think the impact is going to be? And does that underscore the need to resolve somehow differently the issues at Guantanamo?
SEC. GATES: I just heard about this five minutes ago. I don't know the details of the ruling. If it is as described, I think that's the reason we have a judicial process in all of this, and we'll have to take a look at it and see what the implications are. But at this point, I don't know enough -- (inaudible).
Q Mr. Secretary, on Iraq; there have been reports in recent days indicating that progress in securing Baghdad neighborhoods has not been as rapid as was expected. I'm wondering what you think of that assessment, and also whether you think that the Iraqis are doing their full share at this point, both in terms of security and on the political front?
SEC. GATES: Well, I think, first of all, General Petraeus has been pretty clear from the very beginning that was going to be a difficult process.
I have not seen any assessments before in terms of how quickly they expected to (inaudible) gain control of specific number of neighborhoods. I think that's the report you're referring to. So I am not in a position to judge whether that's faster or slower than General Petraeus anticipated. If it's going slower, it's clearly because al Qaeda is trying to make as much difficulty as possible for us and for the Iraqi government.
With respect to the security situation, the Iraqis are -- the Iraqi army is suffering twice as many casualties as the coalition. I think their willingness to fight and die for their country is not in doubt. As has been indicated for the last several weeks, we would certainly be happier if it were faster progress. The political progress -- (inaudible).
Q Do you have any time, in terms of your estimation, of what it should be in terms of the political part of it?
SEC. GATES: Well, they've clearly missed the deadlines. I think there was a May 31st deadline for the hydrocarbon law. My experience has been that legislators sometimes don't meet all the deadlines they've set for themselves. And clearly the faster that they can get these legislative -- (inaudible).
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