Gates, Canadian Counterpart Meet at Pentagon
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 22, 2010 Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and his Canadian counterpart discussed bilateral defense issues here today, including Canada’s future role in the NATO mission in Afghanistan.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, right, and Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay meet with reporters following their March 22, 2010, meeting at the Pentagon. DoD photo by R.D. Ward
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The meeting between Gates and Canadian National Defense Minister Peter MacKay covered the projected U.S.-Canadian defense relationship over the next five years, and areas of mutual interest such as the countries’ shared border area, the Arctic, and relief efforts in Caribbean nations.
“The relationship between the U.S. and Canada is vitally important to both of us,” Gates told reporters at the Pentagon following his meeting with MacKay. “I look forward to continuing this dialogue in the future.”
MacKay described the talks as a “substantive and productive” discussion on the enduring defense relationship between Ottawa and Washington. He said the recent Olympic Games in Vancouver highlighted bilateral cooperation with the United States.
MacKay added that security preparations are ongoing ahead of G-8 and G-20 summits to be hosted in Canada.
“We’ve demonstrated a very close working relationship and commitment to continental security, [and] we’re looking to areas of further cooperation,” MacKay said. “At a military-to-military level in places like Afghanistan, … our countries continue to work together in 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.”
Canadian military forces number nearly 3,000 of the roughly 45,000 allied troops operating in Afghanistan as NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. American troop levels are around 83,000, according to the latest available figures.
Asked about Canada’s future in Afghanistan, MacKay said Canada would end its combat role next year, concluding a decade of fighting alongside its NATO partners there.
“By 2011, Canadian will have been in Afghanistan for 10 years,” he said, adding that Canadian troops are without the restrictions that limit how some contributing countries’ forces operate. “We plan to continue combat operations until mid-summer of 2011.”
Gates is slated to hold talks this week with a Pakistani delegation, with the war effort in Afghanistan expected to be a major focal point of discussions.
“I’m looking forward to the meetings this week with the Pakistani delegation,” said Gates, who meets later today with Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Pakistani army’s chief of staff, and later this week with other Pakistani officials.
“What we are interested in is looking at the long-term in the relationship between the United States and Pakistan,” Gates said, “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.”