Secretary of Defense Robert Gates met today with Afghan Minister of Defense Abdul Rahim Wardak and Afghan Minister of Interior Besmillah Khan Mohammadi as part of the inaugural session of the U.S. - Afghanistan Security Consultations Forum (SCF) at the Pentagon. The ministers met with Gates, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright, and other defense officials to discuss building long-term cooperation between the two countries as well as issues of immediate importance.
The discussions made progress toward building a mutually-shared vision of the security aspects of an enduring strategic partnership between the United States and Afghanistan based on the mutual goal of building Afghan security forces that are able to provide for Afghanistan’s own security and ensuring Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for extremists that threaten others.
The meetings included a review of security gains across Afghanistan in 2010, particularly in Helmand and Kandahar. In those provinces, a surge of Afghan National Security Forces coupled with an International Security Assistance Force increase in force levels are improving security and enabling greater Afghan freedom of movement, commerce, and development. Talks focused on how to build on those gains throughout 2011, particularly in support of the beginning of the transition process to Afghan responsibility for security; a process aimed to achieve the goal of Afghan leadership in security throughout the entire country by the end of 2014, as set out by President Karzai and endorsed by President Obama and other NATO leaders at the Lisbon summit in November 2010.
The ministers and Gates also discussed the progress that has been made during the past year in expanding the Afghan security forces by more than 70,000 troops and in improving the quality of those forces. They exchanged views on how to continue improvements in the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police.