Statement by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to Reporters on Plane Enroute Afghanistan
SEC. GATES: I'll be going back to Afghanistan tomorrow for the first time since January. We have new commanders out there, a new ambassador. Looking forward to getting their assessment of how they think things are going, both in terms of military action against the Taliban, but also the economic development and reconstruction. Talk to President Karzai and Defense Minister Wardak, their perception about how things are going. I want to talk to the ambassador and the commanders about coordination, see if they are satisfied with the level of coordination.
One of my concerns is that we have 42 countries and 12 NGOs out here, and I want to find out if there's anyone really creating an overall strategy or coordinating their activities so that we can make the best possible use of the resources that are out here. There's a joint monitoring board that's supposed to do that, and I want to find out whether that's in fact performing as we had hoped.
At the same time, I'll tell them about some of the conversations that I had at the Shangri-La conference and some of the requests that were made; my efforts there to get countries to extend or to add to what they already are doing in Afghanistan. I'll also take advantage of the opportunity to talk to them directly about the meeting of the RC-South defense ministers in Quebec, which I think was last month.
And anyway, it's basically just to get a feel for how things are going at this point and ask some questions, and also let them know some of the activities that I've been up to on their behalf.
Q Mr. Secretary, the way you just stated that in the first person -- we were told it was -- the plan was that this would be on background. We'd prefer if you made those statements, obviously, on the record, because if you said, "I'm going to do this, I'm interested in that" -- that wouldn't make much sense to be some anonymous person saying --
SEC. GATES: I'm going to do this or that? (Laughter.)
Q -- I’m going from Singapore to Afghanistan to talk to commanders.
SEC. GATES: I guess Dorrance had talked about my doing something on the record at the end of this. I think it's okay just to use that [preceding remarks] on the record.
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