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Media Availability with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and German Minister of Defense Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg

Presenters: Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and German Minister of Defense Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg
November 19, 2009

                SEC. GATES:  Well, it was my pleasure today to welcome to Washington, and to the Pentagon, my new German counterpart, the federal minister of defense, Minister zu Guttenberg.  I congratulated him on his new appointment.  I know he's a well respected voice in Germany on national security and foreign policy issues.  So I look forward to working with him.  He's also a great friend of the United States, where he has many friendships.

 

                We agreed to consult on a frequent basis on common challenges we face as close allies, particularly in Afghanistan, where Germany is the second-largest contributor to Afghan national police training, the third largest troop contributor to the ISAF mission and the fourth largest provider of civilian development assistance.

 

                The minister briefed me on his recent trip to Afghanistan, and I took the opportunity to congratulate Germany's continued leadership and steadfast response to increased violence in Regional Command North.

 

                We've also welcomed Chancellor Merkel's initiative with her British and French counterparts to convene an international conference on Afghanistan in January of next year.  We exchanged views on several other common issues, including the new NATO strategic concept, Iran, and advancing nuclear nonproliferation.  So I look forward to a long and productive relationship with the minister.

 

                MIN. GUTTENBERG:  So am I, Mr. Secretary.  Thank you very much for the warm welcome I have received here, and some noise above.  (Laughs.)  (Inaudible) -- flying over -- (inaudible) -- get it -- get it done.  

 

                And it's -- first of all, it's a pleasure to be back in Washington in this -- in this new position I'm -- I'm having at the moment, for this time now.  And I sense that we have more than just a good fundament to work together.  And we will work together on those topics we have been discussing for years, but we also were -- found the point that we will need creativity, that we will need ideas, and that we will need common strategies to tackle the challenges we have on both sides of the Atlantic. 

 

                We talked about Afghanistan, about the challenges ahead of us, about the possibility and the necessity of this conference at the beginning of next year.  And I described to the secretary the current German position and the discussion we are having in Germany, but also, I told him that our commitment in regarding Afghanistan is firm and stays to be firm; that was one of the points. 

 

                Then we also talked about the future of NATO.  I think this is also of utmost importance for us as alliance partners, that we should use the momentum next year, when we are not only talking about the new strategic concept but also about all the efforts NATO has to make to stay not -- to stay an instrument for international security, and all the other terms related to that. 

 

                It's very good to know to have so many friends here to work together with and to build up -- to build up a, let's say -- or to build on the fundament that we have built together during the last couple of years. 

 

                And thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.  I think we will keep the close contact we have -- we have -- we have seen today; we could -- we could work with.  And thank you for the reception I -- I've had today.  And we will see each other tomorrow in Halifax.  And we will probably have a possibility to continue our talks and to exchange our views very closely. 

 

                Thank you very much. 

 

                SEC. GATES:  I think we're doing one question from each side. 

 

                Ann. 

 

                Q     A question for both of you, please. 

 

                The announcement yesterday that Germany would extend its commitment, in Afghanistan, did not come with an announcement of further troop deployments there or an increase in the number that you currently have.  Do you anticipate adding troops to your mission, in Afghanistan, next year alongside the expected American increase? 

 

                And to Mr. Secretary, would you like to see that happen even before -- such a commitment even before the NATO force generation meeting? 

 

                MIN. GUTTENBERG:  Well, first of all, we will prolong our existing mandate which has -- which includes a total number of 4,500 troops.  We are still the third largest troop supplier for Afghanistan. 

 

                But I told the secretary that we are now eagerly, as you probably all are, waiting for the president's speech and about -- we're waiting for the new concept or for the new strategic ideas from our American friends. 

 

                And what we also need as a second pillar for any -- for the discussion also in Germany is a clear commitment by the -- by the Afghan government.  And today was an interesting day in Afghanistan.  And we will see what will be the result of it. 

 

                And we need more than just words.  We need action also in Afghanistan by the Afghan government.  And I told the secretary that basing on those two pillars and also on the -- on the conference at the end of next January, Germany will certainly reassess -- will certainly reassess its mandate and make decisions then after the conference. 

 

                SEC. GATES:  As I've said for three years, and without specific reference to Germany but to all of our -- the now 43 troop contributing nations, we can use all the help we can get.  But frankly I think at this point, until the president has announced his decisions, going beyond that and being specific, with respect to any particular country, is probably premature. 

 

                Q     (Remarks in German.) 

 

                MIN. GUTTENBERG:  (Remarks in German.) 

 

                Q     (Remarks in German.) 

 

                MIN. GUTTENBERG:  (Remarks in German.) 

 

                Okay. 

 

                I was -- I've just been asked about certain discussions we have in Germany from time to time, that some of the partners are being perceived as, let's say, lonesome decision makers and of not acting together as we could in a perfect world.  And I said my perception is different, that we specifically feel during the last, not only the last couple of weeks but also months, that we can only come to success together, and that this togetherness is the basis for any success in Afghanistan. 

 

                And I was then asked whether Germany has a chance also to deliver its own ideas and to bring in its own ideas.  And then I said certainly Germany's always willing to bring in our own ideas and that we can spell the words of confidence also correctly.

 

                Thank you very much.

 

                SEC. GATES:  Absolutely.  I’ll walk you to your car.

 

                MIN. GUTTENBERG:  Thank you.

 

                SEC. GATES:  Thank you.

 

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