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U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)

ISAF Joint Command
As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, June 07, 2011

I’ve spent the last two days visiting with troops around the country, my final opportunity to look each and every one of them in the eye and thank them for their service and their sacrifice before I retire at the end of this month.

It’s fitting that my last address here in theater is here at the ISAF Joint Command – an organization that has played a central part in turning this effort war around. Two years ago, as you all know better than I do, this facility was a gym used for basketball games. The regional commands were run largely as separate entities – each engaged in their own campaign with little integration or situation awareness of what was happening elsewhere.

To fix this situation, we sent in General Rodriguez – then my senior military assistant. Rod’s worked tirelessly to build this command from scratch, along with a dedicated team that included others from my personal staff.

In less than a year’s time, this command has made it possible to synchronize operations, set priorities, maintain 24 hour situational awareness, and establish real command and control. And that has made possible all of the gains we’ve made over the last 18 months.

So I’d like to thank everyone here who makes that possible on a day-to-day basis, but I would like to single out Rod for his extraordinary leadership. Rod is going on to well deserved promotion. I can’t tell you how happy he was to come here and leave the Pentagon. I think the one saving grace about leaving Afghanistan is that he doesn’t have to go back to Washington, DC. He gets to go to Fort Bragg. And I have complete confidence in General Scaparrotti, who is taking over.

I leave Afghanistan today with the belief that if we keep this momentum up, we will deliver a decisive blow to the enemy and turn the corner in this conflict. If we do, it will be because of the service and sacrifice of all of you, of all the rest of those from all of the coalition countries, and our Afghan partners throughout this country, and the sacrifices of your families as well.

For that, I will always thank you.

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