Media Availability with Secretary Gates and Canadian Minister of National Defence MacKay from the Pentagon
SEC. GATES: Well, thank you all for being here. Minister MacKay and I met today to continue strengthening the bilateral defense partnership between the United States and Canada. We discussed a five-year plan for U.S.-Canadian strategic cooperation on continental and hemispheric engagement.
The issues focused on understanding shared interests and challenges for operating in the Arctic, the evolving role of NORAD, U.S. NORTHCOM and Canada Command in meeting current and emerging threats, coordination of defense support for civil authorities, engagement opportunities in the Western Hemisphere and a need for coordinated humanitarian aid and disaster relief in the Caribbean, as highlighted by the recent relief efforts in Haiti.
The bilateral security relationship between the U.S. and Canada is vitally important to both of us. And I look forward to continuing this dialogue in the future.
MIN. MACKAY: Well, thank you, Secretary Gates. And as was indicated, we had what I would describe as a very substantive and productive discussion mainly focused on this long and enduring relationship, defense relationship and security relationship, between Canada and the United States.
On full display in that regard was the Olympic Games, where we had an opportunity to benefit from interoperability and working together, to ensure a secure environment for athletes, participants and attendees at the Olympic Games.
And as host country for the G-8 and G-20 summit, again the lessons learned and the work in that regard is ongoing. But we've demonstrated a very close working relationship and commitment to continental security. We're looking to areas of further cooperation, areas -- specific regional areas like the Arctic.
And we -- at a military-to-military level, in places like Afghanistan and expeditionary work, our countries continue to work together at a very sophisticated and very important way, to provide for the type of security both at home and abroad that both of our countries and our populations expect.
STAFF: Minister MacKay is on a tight schedule. We only have time for two questions today.
Q Minister MacKay, quickly if you could, just tell us if there's any possibility Canada might be willing to reconsider its planned withdrawal from Afghanistan, if operations in Kandahar prove successful, be able to make that argument.
And to Secretary Gates, if you could, please talk a bit about the discussions this week expected related to Pakistan with your counterparts.
MIN. MACKAY: We did touch briefly on the discussions around Afghanistan of course. By the year 2011, Canada will have been a participant in this mission for 10 years; this, you know, NATO-led, U.N.-backed mission.
We plan to intend -- I should say, to continue combat operations till mid-summer of 2011. And it's a full range; it's uncaveated as far as what Canada's participation in this mission has been.
We're also putting a great deal of emphasis, along with the United States and other countries, on the training of Afghan forces, both police and army. And we'll continue to do that. There has been a call from NATO for countries to particularly emphasize that aspect. And it's our hope, as it is all participants in this mission -- and certainly, General McChrystal has demonstrated tremendous leadership, working with all of the countries that are there, all of the international community, in trying to quell the violence and create that atmosphere where we can do more reconstruction and development.
So our mission will change, our emphasis will change, and we'll begin that drawdown in the summer of 2011.
SEC. GATES: I'm looking forward to the meetings this week with the Pakistani delegation, the foreign minister, General Kayani, the minister of Defense. I will meet with General Kayani this afternoon, and we'll meet with the minister of Defense in a couple of days. And we will have the larger session on Wednesday, to talk about the full range of the relationship.
And I would say that what we are -- what we are interested in is looking at the long term in the relationship between the United States and Pakistan, how we can strengthen our relationship and how we can help Pakistan in dealing with the security challenges that face them but also face us and NATO as well.
Q Mr. Secretary, I wanted to ask you, the Pentagon now, openly acknowledging it's investigating and reviewing the activities of the contract run by Michael Furlong in open source. I'm not sure if you can comment on that in particular, but what are your views now about -- and your concerns about contractors being used to gather intelligence and information on the battlefield and have it then turned over to intelligence authorities? Is the Pentagon getting into the CIA's business here? Is the Pentagon running a contractor intelligence network in the war?
SEC. GATES: Well, I'm -- I really don't know enough about the details relating to the -- to contractors collecting intelligence on the battlefield. Quite frankly, in principle, I would have concerns about that. But I don't know enough to know whether there is some -- there has -- whether it took place and, if so, whether there was value added.
We obviously are in the intelligence business in the -- in the Defense Department. After all, about 85 percent of the national intelligence budget is in the Pentagon budget and is for Pentagon agencies. So we are in the intelligence business.
Obviously our military is collecting intelligence all the time on the battlefield. It's critical to our success and to protecting the lives of our -- of our men and women in uniform.
But in terms of the role of contractors, this is something I need to know more about. But we do have reviews and investigations going on to find out what the story is here, find out what the facts are. And if it's necessary to make some changes, I'll do that.
STAFF: Thank you, all.
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