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Secretary Robert Gates Interview with Pentagon Channel

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates
March 27, 2009
SGT. MACDONALD: Well, sir, first off, I'd like to thank you very much for taking the opportunity to sit down with us here at the Pentagon Channel.
            SEC. GATES: Happy to do it.
            SGT. MACDONALD: President Obama has announced his much-anticipated new -- his new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan -- (audio break) -- appears that it's taking? And do you believe that it's going to give us a greater likelihood of success?
            SEC. GATES: I believe it'll provide a greater likelihood of success, because it's a more comprehensive approach to the problem, whether it's dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan as a common problem in the threat that they both face from al Qaeda and its allies, the internationalization of the problem, the additional trainers and acceleration of the growth of the Afghan army and police, the significant civilian surge. We've been calling for that for a long time here in the department. I know that the State Department and AID intend to add hundreds of people, and we're going to be asking our allies to provide more. So I think in all of the different facets of it that it's a more comprehensive approach and kind of deals with all of the aspects of the challenge in Afghanistan.
SGT. MACDONALD: You know, Mr. Secretary, the mission as described by the president is to "disrupt, dismantle, and ultimately defeat" al Qaeda in its safe havens in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Will the administration and our allies around the world commit the necessary resources to meet those objectives?
            SEC. GATES: Well, the president clearly has indicated that the United States will provide the resources. The 17,000 troops that he has already approved sending over there, the 4,000 additional trainers that he spoke about this morning, the increase of several hundred civilians from the United States government from State and AID -- I think it's clear we will provide the resources. And we will work hard to try and persuade our allies to provide other capabilities that will augment our own, both on the military and the civilian side, and I would say especially on -- in terms of training the Afghan police.
            SGT. MACDONALD: Well, the announcement was 4,000 additional troops to train the Afghan army, Mr. Secretary, to hopefully double the size of the Army by 2011.  Is that enough? Is that enough trainers?
            SEC. GATES: I think it makes a big -- I think it will make a big dent in the problem. After all, a lot of the troops -- of our troops that are out there already are doing training, and to the degree we have joint operations with the Afghan army, that in itself is a training activity. So I think the commitment of this -- a full additional brigade will make a significant difference.
            SGT. MACDONALD: Okay, sir. 
            The president said that al Qaeda's number one and number two may be hiding out in Pakistan. Will American troops have the go-ahead to go and -- go in and get them? And if not, do we think that more money is going to get the Afghan and Pakistani governments to address the problem?
            SEC. GATES: I don't anticipate that U.S. troops would be going into Pakistan in that way.
            A big part of what the president announced today is a new kind of partnership with Pakistan, including both economic assistance but also our willingness to help train their forces and provide the gear that would allow them to improve their own capabilities in counterinsurgency. I think what is key here is the regionalization of the problem and getting Afghanistan and Pakistan to work together on both sides of that border to go after al Qaeda and their allies.
            SGT. MACDONALD: And about our NATO allies, sir, you've always been very vocal in saying that the NATO allies need to contribute more to this mission. Do you -- is there any reason to hope that this new strategy will induce them to pony up more money, equipment, even soldiers?
            SEC. GATES: I think that the focus of our request on civilian expertise and police trainers frankly is easier for the Europeans politically at home than to send more soldiers and to be actually more in the fight. Now of course some of them already are in a major way -- the British and the French, the Dutch, the Danes, along with non-allies -- or non-NATO members like Australia -- and the Canadians, by all means.
            But I think that the kinds of things we're going to be asking them for will be easier for them politically, and I hope that despite their economic problems at home, that they will in fact meet those needs.
            SGT. MACDONALD: Now I understand that we're kind of -- we're taking -- we're focusing on Afghanistan and Pakistan. They're two countries, but they're one challenge for us. How is this holistic approach towards strategy going to work?
            SEC. GATES: I think that the way the president framed it in his speech this morning is that al Qaeda operates on both sides of that border, and if you -- you really have to go after al Qaeda and its allies on both sides of that border. And what's required here is just greater coordination and collaboration, first of all between the Afghans and the Pakistanis, but also between each of them and ourselves.
            So both on a bilateral basis and a trilateral basis, I think we have to go after these guys on both sides of the border, but the Pakistanis are absolutely critical on their side.
            SGT. MACDONALD: Okay. One final question for you, Mr. Secretary. If you could say anything to the 38,000 troops already serving in Afghanistan or the 22,000 troops that are going to be en route shortly, what would you tell them their exit strategy is? When will they know that the mission has been accomplished in Afghanistan?
            SEC. GATES: Well, I would say that first -- two points. First, I would say that the exit strategy in Afghanistan is the same as the exit strategy in Iraq, and that's success. And I think success is when the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police are able to take over the security functions in their own country and perform those really with very little help from us.
            And I think the acceleration of the army and all of the other aspects of the strategy will make that day closer than, perhaps, it was before.
            SGT. MACDONALD: Outstanding, sir. Thank you very much, once again, for taking the time to sit with us.
            SEC. GATES: Thanks. My pleasure. 

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