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American Forces Press Service

McChrystal to Brief as NATO Ministers Focus on Afghanistan

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia, Oct. 23, 2009 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and his fellow NATO defense ministers will hear today from the commander of the alliance’s International Security Assistance Force and U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal will offer his on-the-ground assessment of conditions and progress in building the Afghan security forces in both numbers and capability during an alliance defense ministers conference that’s under way here, NATO officials said.

Gates will participate in several sessions focused on the NATO mission in Afghanistan. During a working lunch, he’ll meet with allied ministers and their counterparts from non-NATO nations contributing troops in Afghanistan. Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and representatives of several international organizations involved in Afghanistan also will participate.

Deliberations also are expected to address resourcing, as well as a new training mission NATO plans to launch for Afghan security forces.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called yesterday for more forward momentum in Afghanistan, including a redoubling of efforts to help with reconstruction and development. But the focus, he said, also needs to include holding the new Afghan government to account, dealing with corruption and building Afghan security forces so they are strong enough to provide security in Afghanistan, with NATO in a security role.

“Afghanistan needs to be made strong enough to resist the insurgency if it is to be able to resist terrorism,” he said. “It’s as simple as that, and that is the essence of the McChrystal approach.”

Rasmussen warned that foot-dragging in providing the needed support only will make the challenge bigger. “We have to do more today if we want to be able to do less tomorrow,” he said.

“To my mind, it is clear,” he said in a statement issued before yesterday’s opening session. “Hoping that Taliban extremists will never again host al-Qaida is not a strategy. They did it in the past. We can only assume they will do it in future.”

As Gates participates in the ministerial conference, he said he’s buoyed by a renewed sense of purpose he’s detected within the alliance.

“Frankly, since the NATO summit last spring, I have seen more energy and more commitment on behalf of both the military and civilian leadership in the alliance than I have seen in the previous two years that I was in this job,” Gates told reporters before arriving here last night.

Gates said both he and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have sensed the shift during meetings and telephone conversations with their NATO counterparts.

“There seems to be a renewed commitment that we have to do this and get this done right,” he said.

“This is an alliance issue,” he emphasized.

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