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American Forces Press Service

Gates: Asian Leaders Receptive to Call for More Help in Afghanistan

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

SINGAPORE, June 3, 2007 – Asian defense and military leaders meeting here showed “great receptivity” to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ call for Asian countries to contribute more toward stabilizing Afghanistan and Central Asia, Gates told reporters today.

Gates issued a challenge here yesterday to participants in the International Institute of Strategic Studies’ Asia Security Summit, urging their countries to help Afghanistan and its newly independent neighbors in Central Asia become secure, fully sovereign nations.

He asked participants to contribute through economic development, counterterrorism and counternarcotics support and by providing military trainers, peacekeepers and advisors to strengthen new defense establishments.

Today, Gates said representatives of 25 Asia-Pacific nations at the three-day conference engaged in “a protracted discussion” of the request. They talked during a defense minister’s luncheon following his address about getting more Asian countries to join the 42-nation coalition in Afghanistan and increasing the support among those already involved, he said.

The talks extended to improving the way coalition members coordinate their activities. Gates cited the need for this during a question-and-answer session following yesterday’s keynote address.

“We need to do a much better job of sharing with each other what we are doing in a place like Afghanistan and coordinating those efforts so we can benefit from the experience that each has had,” he said.

Gates emphasized today that while many in the group were open to his request, no formal new commitments have yet been made.

“It’s important to understand that the people at this conference are defense ministers and representatives of the defense ministries,” he said. “Additional commitments to Afghanistan, in virtually every case, require a political decision on the part of their governments.”

Defense representatives wrapping up the conference’s third and final day will have to go back to their capitals and work with their governments before making firm new commitments, he said.

Gates said he did not specifically extend his request to include Iraq. We have not made any requests for new commitments in Iraq from Asian countries,” he said. “We have encouraged those who are already there to sustain their presence, to sustain their help.”

During yesterday’s speech, Gates emphasized the far-reaching security consequences of failed governments in the region.

“Whatever your views on how we got to this point in Iraq, it is clear that a failed state in that part of the world would destabilize the region and embolden violent extremists elsewhere,” he told the group. “The effects of chaos in Central or Southwest Asia will not recognize national, continental or regional boundaries.”

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