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American Forces Press Service

Gates Stops in Belgium En Route to NATO Summit

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

MONS, Belgium, March 31, 2008 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates stopped here briefly today for a fact-finding visit on his way to the NATO Summit in Bucharest, Romania.

Gates will spend only a few hours at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, receiving operational updates on NATO efforts in Afghanistan and Kosovo from Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, the alliance’s top commander.

“The secretary’s looking to get a feel for the situation on the ground … and how it’s looked at from the headquarters perspective,” a senior defense official, speaking on background, told reporters traveling with Gates during the flight from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., to Brussels, where the secretary's aircraft landed before his party boarded helicopters for the trip to SHAPE.

“He thought it would make sense to go to SHAPE before going to Bucharest to get a better sense how SHAPE plays in the whole decision-making process, … and in particular, he wants to get some operational briefs on Afghanistan and on Kosovo,” the official said.

This is Gates’ 11th trip to Europe, but his first visit to SHAPE as defense secretary. Gates also will stop in Copenhagen, Denmark, for meetings with his Danish counterpart before going on to the summit.

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