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Media Stakeout with Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Canadian Minister of Defense Peter Mackay outside the Pentagon, Arlington, Va.

Presenters: Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Canadian Minister of Defense Peter Mackay
March 05, 2009
            SEC. GATES: Good afternoon, everybody. 
 
            Minister MacKay and I had yet another very good meeting. I began by expressing our condolences to the Canadian government, and through them to the families of the three Canadian soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan just a couple of days ago. 
 
            We talked about Afghanistan, and also talked about the need to get together and discuss the broader agenda of U.S.-Canadian security issues. And so we're probably going to plan a meeting together that focuses principally on a lot of other issues, from the Americas to NORAD to the Arctic and so on. 
 
            And so I think we had a good meeting, and it's always a pleasure to see the minister. 
 
            Peter? 
 
            MIN. MACKAY: Thank you very much. I'm delighted, of course, to be here with my friend, Secretary Gates. 
 
            And Bob and I did discuss, as we very often do, the situation in Afghanistan. I was extremely appreciative of the condolences I will convey to the family -- families of the Canadian soldiers. Clearly, we are often finding ourselves expressing sympathy and solidarity in what is a challenging mission in Afghanistan. This has been a number-one priority for our country, both in terms of our military presence there and our diplomatic efforts as well, and our ongoing attempts to build stability and support for the Afghan people and their government. 
 
            We've had such a long-standing relationship as countries. Canada and the United States have historic relations that go back to their very beginnings. And we look forward to working with the new administration. I would convey directly to the president the wisdom that he demonstrated in keeping Secretary Bob Gates in place, that not only shows continuity for the ongoing efforts there through our NATO and ISAF missions, but it demonstrates as well the great confidence that the president has in the work of Secretary Gates. 
 
            I look forward to again welcoming Bob Gates back to Canada. He's visited my home province of Nova Scotia. We have a lot of common interests in working to enhance and buttress NORAD and our protection of citizens in both Canada and the United States. And look forward to continuing what has been a very strong and solid working relationship. 
 
            Thank you. 
 
            SEC. GATES: I think the game is one question for each of us. 
 
            Ma'am. 
 
            Q     Can you tell us what you discussed about the new administration's Afghanistan/Pakistan security review? Mr. Secretary, you're extending the time for that. Mr. Minister, what would you like to see the United States do differently as a result of that review? 
 
            SEC. GATES: I basically told him that the review is a work in progress, that we are still eagerly soliciting ideas from our allies and friends, as we did from the Afghans and Pakistanis last week. This isn't a pro forma exercise. We are genuinely interested in other people's thinking on the way forward in Afghanistan. 
 
            I told him that, frankly, we weren't at a point where I could offer even preliminary conclusions to him, but I talked about some of the issues that were being addressed -- for example, the size of the foreign military presence, how we get better civilian-military coordination, and so on. And we really didn't talk about the deadline. 
 
            Q     Under what circumstances -- 
 
            MIN. MACKAY: Just -- just to respond briefly, we -- as the secretary has lined out, we talked about, from a Canadian perspective, what we might add to that review, and we've had very good interaction. We have experience in Pakistan as well, in addition to what we're doing in Afghanistan. I think Canadians recognize, as do others, that this review helps put in context the regional challenges; that this obviously goes beyond any one country. 
 
            We touched briefly on the involvement of India within that context. And certainly that is also an important country, a very major player within the region. The comprehensive approach that Canada has taken in building capacity of the government of Afghanistan, we think through that prism we should also be looking at ways that we can help the Pakistani people as well and building their capacity in certain regions. Certain concerns about the situation in the Swat, in the FATA. We're watching, of course, very closely what's developing inside Pakistan. And I expect that this review, upon completion, will be a very important -- not a restart, but a continuation of the ongoing strategy. 
 
            (Airplane flies overhead.) 
 
            We have an airport around here. (Laughter.) 
 
            SEC. GATES: I hope so. (Laughter.) 
 
            MIN. MACKAY: I mean, we're like a lot of countries. Of course, this review is going to be of critical importance as we make our way forward both in Afghanistan, but of course Pakistan is a country that you absolutely have to include on the way forward and on the plans that will eventually lead to improved status for both countries. 
 
            SEC. GATES: Anybody here from the Canadian press that wants to ask? 
 
            Q     Might this review persuade you to ask parliament to extend Canada's involvement in Afghanistan in a combat role?  
 
            And I'd also like you to comment on what the prime minister said last week. He said that the insurgency in Afghanistan cannot be defeated. Could you discuss that? And what difference does it make in terms of how you go forward? 
 
            MIN. MACKAY: Well, let me start with what the prime minister said. I think he very much echoed the comments of both President Obama and others who have said that essentially military might alone is not going to do it when it comes to Afghanistan. It's going to require much more. It's going to require obviously an effort to build the capacity of the Afghan government to deliver more for their people; to do more on the training of the Afghan security forces, police and army; to essentially take the approach that many, including Canada, have -- have undertaken, and that is to what we've described as a whole-of-government approach, others have used a comprehensive approach. And that is very much in keeping with what the United States and others are doing, the 40-plus countries that are there working inside Afghanistan today. 
 
            With respect to Canada's role post-2011, this is something that, as you would know, was a decision of parliament. It came after an extensive consultation involving an independent panel that traveled and gathered information, and referred back to parliament advice on where Canada should be in Afghanistan. So we can't -- we can't attempt to build democracy and institutions in Afghanistan and not respect our own. And so Canada post-2011 will play a role. We will absolutely be in Afghanistan performing important tasks. We will reconfigure what the face of that mission looks like. We will be involved in consultations with our allies. But we will always respect the parliament of Canada. 
 
            Q     And that's not up for review? 
 
            MIN. MACKAY: Pardon me? 
 
            Q     And that's not up for review? 
 
            MIN. MACKAY: Well, look, it's not up for review without parliament, and parliament has pronounced itself on this. We respect that decision. And 2011 is a fixed date to the end of combat. There is much more that can be done in Afghanistan beyond combat, and I suspect quite strongly that Afghanistan will look much differently in 2011. 
 
            SEC. GATES: Thank you all very much. 
 
            Q     (In French.) 
 
            Q     They'd like you to speak a little bit of French. (Laughter.) 
 
            MIN. MACKAY: (In French.)
 
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