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

Presenter: Canadian National Defense Minister Peter MacKay, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Mexican National Defense Secretary General Guillermo Galvan Galvan, and Mexican Navy Secretary Admiral Mariano Synex Mendoza March 27, 2012

Media Availability with North American Defense Ministers on Threats to North American Security at Cadieux Auditorium, Ottawa, Canada

CANADIAN NATIONAL DEFENSE MINISTER PETER MACKAY: Colleagues, friends, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, madames et monsieurs, senores y senoras, I want to begin by thanking firstly General Galvan, Admiral Synex and Secretary Panetta for being with us here, for coming to Ottawa to participate in the first trilateral meeting of North American defense ministers.

I don't think it's overstating to describe this as a historic meeting and one that took place with tremendous common respect and admiration and cooperation. I welcome them here on a frosty March day to have important discussions about our common security interests.

(In French, through interpreter.)

The problems in security which our North American continent is presently facing are ever more complex. And more than ever, the security of our populations depend on the close and diverse cooperation between our governments.

(Resumes speaking in English.)

In our discussions today, we were able to identify a number of opportunities to better coordinate our efforts on issues related to national defense. We discussed the need to advance a common understanding of the threats facing North America. To this end, we will work together to develop a trilateral threat assessment for the continent that will provide a basis for common understanding and an approach as we work to address these challenges.

We've also pledged to better coordinate our armed forces’ support to the work of civilian public security agencies, countering illicit activities in the hemisphere such as narcotics, narco-trafficking, human trafficking, trafficking in arms.

In Canada, we have an extraordinary whole-of-government partnership, an approach which sees our armed forces working in support of Public Safety Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, departments like Foreign Affairs, where we are today, and other government agencies and departments.

(In French, through interpreter.)

Inspiration from our recent experiences of our armed forces in Haiti and elsewhere in the world will help us explore how we can establish means to ensure that there is greater coordination in order to support efforts undertaken by civil agencies regarding intervention in the case of disaster relief.

(Resumes speaking in English.)

We've also agreed collectively to continue working together to strengthen hemispheric defense forums. And I'm pleased to note that Canada, the United States and Mexico will agree that the Inter-American Defense Board will be given a permanent role as secretariat of the Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas, so an attempt to coordinate these efforts of other bodies and other forums.

We've also agreed to continue working together to strengthen these forums. And I'm looking forward to the productive Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas in Uruguay this fall.

(In Spanish, through interpreter.)

When you talk about the security of North America, none of the three of us will ever be able to work alone. We have to work together. Thank you.

(Resumes speaking in English.)

When it comes to the security of North America, none of us can afford to work in isolation. And that has been an easy conclusion to arrive at.

Our discussions today began what I believe is an important dialogue on security and defense in North America that we will continue through regular meetings. We also wish to explore the development of a trilateral mechanism to cooperate on humanitarian assistance and disaster response; again, sadly, something we can predict will require greater attention.

In short, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, we have defined the way forward, and now is the time to go to work, to operationalize, in military terms, some of the discussions and the agreements that we've had today.

I look forward to continue to work closely with my Mexican and American friends as we make North America and our populations more secure. I thank you for your presence here. Merci. Muchas gracias.

Secretary Panetta.

DEFENSE SECRETARY LEON PANETTA: Thank you very much, Peter, and ladies and gentlemen.

Minister MacKay, General Galvan and Admiral Synex, all of us have been part of what I think is a very historic occasion. This is the first trilateral meeting of defense ministers from the United States, Canada and Mexico. And it is a real honor for me to have this opportunity to be here in Ottawa to participate in this historic event.

I'd like to thank Peter MacKay for his wonderful hospitality and for his commitment to bolstering security collaboration between Canada, the United States and Mexico.

This has provided, I think, all of the defense ministers with an unprecedented opportunity to try to bring together our nations in a common approach to continental security. We are part of the North American continent. We face some common challenges. This gives us the opportunity to work together to ensure that we bring greater security to all of our nations.

The ties between the United States, Canada and Mexico are deep and they are abiding, and they are based on far more than just shared geography. We share a similar identity, rooted in the principles of liberty and democracy.

American and Canadian forces have stood shoulder to shoulder in Afghanistan for the past decade. And the mission there is on track, thanks largely to efforts by countries like Canada and their tremendous contribution and their tremendous sacrifice. I can't tell you how much we appreciate what the Canadians have done to be part of this effort. And I understand and recognize the sacrifices that have been made on behalf of this effort.

The United States and Mexican forces have long cooperated in a number of areas, especially in the fight against illegal drug traffickers. In this century, our nations, as I said, face many of the same security challenges. And that's why it's so important that we begin an ongoing trilateral dialogue about cooperative approaches to address real and emerging threats to North America.

One of the most important elements of the new U.S. defense strategy that we have put in place is the recognition that America must continue to strengthen key alliances and build innovative new partnerships around the world. This is exactly what we're doing today.

The U.S., Canada and Mexico will continue to work together on a bilateral basis, but we will complement these efforts by enhancing our trilateral relationship and our trilateral security cooperation.

This morning, we had an excellent trilateral discussion on a number of topics ranging from counternarcotics. General Galvan presented a very in-depth briefing on the history behind the drug trafficking problem and the efforts that are being made to try to deal with that.

We also discussed humanitarian assistance. And Admiral Saynez presented a very good summary of the efforts to try to improve humanitarian relief and disaster relief.

We also talked about threat assessment, the need for a common threat assessment on all the challenges that face this area; better mil-to-mil relationships and better and improved regional engagement.

Looking ahead, the U.S. is exploring other ways to improve our defense collaboration and to focus on areas like cybersecurity and defense support to civil authorities. We continue to take steps on a bilateral basis as well.

With my Mexican counterparts, I had a great discussion about the effort against the drug cartels and how we can continue to improve our efforts against them, about disaster relief and training and exchange programs.

And with Peter MacKay -- Minister MacKay, I had very constructive discussions about capacity building in Central America, NATO's long-term approach to Afghanistan, ongoing NATO reform efforts and America's continued commitment to the F-35 program.

All of these steps herald a new era of defense cooperation on this continent, a new effort that I believe will advance security in the Western Hemisphere and around the world.

Our nations are more than just neighbors. We are friends, we are partners, we are one family. Una familia, un famil. Committed to forging a better and more secure future for our people.

Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Mr. Panetta. I would like to invite General Guillermo Galvan Galvan, the Mexican secretary of national defense, to say a few words. (Speaking in French.)

MEXICAN SECRETARY OF NATIONAL DEFENSE GENERAL GUILLERMO GALVAN GALVAN: (Through interpreter.) Minister of defense of Canada, secretary of defense of the United States of America, admiral secretary of the Mexican Navy, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, representatives of the media and distinguished audience, good afternoon.

The Mexican Army and Air Force are fully convinced that international meetings are essential and particularly important to become particular with and discuss our common continental defense issues as well as other common security issues.

Consensus solutions will be the common focus of these types of meetings. During his speech, Mr. Peter MacKay, defense minister of Canada, underlined that organized crime and natural disasters represent significant challenges to the security of our nations. Both topics are major issues on our trilateral agenda.

The fight against organized crime and drug trafficking represents Mexico's highest priority. The main thrust is to further our common understanding of this threat, guide the tasks each nation carries out and to maximize our efforts. Our participation and contribution are essential to these activities.

The way ahead is both all encompassing and complex. Our first decisions will be made within a framework which formalizes our trilateral cooperation. We are aware that the manner and level of reciprocal collaboration can vary by country depending on competing national interests and the specific threats which have to be faced.

In all events and circumstances, we intend to pursue the principle of shared responsibility. Undoubtedly, what each country does or fails to do will have a direct impact on the others.

The meeting we are concluding enhances the relationship and collaboration ties as well as our links of friendship and respect among the armed forces of our respective countries and contributes to solidifying a firm common front.

We enthusiastically endorse a proposal made by Mr. Peter MacKay, defense minister of Canada, to institutionalize our dialogue and meet on a regular basis in order to follow up with the purpose of facing head on and neutralizing the threats and improving security and prosperity for all of North America.

Thank you.

MODERATOR: I would like to invite Admiral Mariano Saynez Mendoza, the Mexican secretary of the Navy to say a few words. (Speaking in French.)


I would like to start by thanking the minister of defense of Canada, Minister MacKay, for the invitation to this first trilateral meeting of defense ministers.

It represents a great responsibility from now on to share information, to share experience and, above all, to analyze many of the procedures that have already been established to attack and to face the challenges and threats that we share in the North American region.

I had the opportunity to present the experiences that we've had in Mexico as secretary of the Navy when we intervened in response to natural disasters in certain countries of the region. I think that working as a team is the best way to join our efforts and to save resources as well.

We have the willingness to work in this way. I am very pleased to have participated with Secretary Leon Panetta, U.S. secretary of defense, my friend and colleague, General Guillermo Galvan. And we arrived at very interesting conclusions with regard to establishing a cooperation and collaboration in a spirit of full respect for sovereignty and with absolute trust.

I think that the trust that we have seen at this first meeting will ensure the success of our first results and we will be able to continue working together.

Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: (Off mic) -- microphones to ask the questions. I remind you to limit yourself to one question. Please identify yourself and your agency and clarify to whom exactly you're addressing the question.

We will start with questions from Canadian media one in Francais and one in English. One is going to the U.S. media and the last one to the Mexican media.

Q: Hi. Richard Madden with CTV National News.

My question is for Mr. Panetta. I don't know if you can answer in English and French, but you did mention the F-35s.

SEC. PANETTA: I can do Italian, but I can't do French. (Laughter.)

Q: Italian is good.

Just wanted to pick up on your comments about the F-35s. As you know, there is concerns about the price tag of them. I'm hoping you can clarify for us today whether or not the United States is still 100 percent committed to purchasing the fleet its committed to, and can you guarantee that the price will come in on budget?

SEC. PANETTA: As part of the defense strategy that the United States went through and has put in place, we have made very clear that we are a hundred percent committed to the development of the F-35. It's the fifth-generation fighter. We absolutely need it for the future. Obviously, we have to be vigilant. We have to be careful. We have to do as much oversight as possible as it continues to be developed.

But we remain very confident that this plane can do everything it's being asked to do in terms of performance. We've been testing it, and we continue to evaluate it as we proceed, and we've made very clear to the industries involved in its production that they have to keep it within the cost confinements that we've provided with regards to this plane.

Q: And just to follow up, what is the actual price tag that you've committed to?

SEC. PANETTA: I'll have to give you the exact number because, you know, it does -- it depends on the different type of plane. There are three variants that are involved, and the prices do vary on each of the variants. But I can give you that information so that you'll have it when we talk with our people.

MODERATOR: Thank you. (Via interpreter:) Is there a question in French?

Q: I have a question that I will ask in French, but it is for Mr. Panetta.

One of the examples of defense cooperation between these three countries has been naval cooperation. And including the interdiction of drugs, Canada has stationed vessels off the coast of Central America. But there's budget measures that are reducing resources in your country and in ours. There's a budget here in Canada on Thursday.

Canada has submarines now. Do you believe a submarine capability in your allies in North America is important? And are you concerned about the reduction of military resources in your allies in North America?

SEC. PANETTA: One of the realities that a lot of countries are confronting are budget constrictions. And we certainly in the United States are facing that with the size deficits that we have.

We've been required in the United States by our Congress to come up with 487 billion [dollars] in reductions over 10 years. And that's what required us to go through our effort to develop a defense strategy so that this would be strategy-driven, so that we could not only look at the force we need today, but in 2020.

And we recognize that other countries are going through the same constrictions and the same need to make decisions about what is their strategy and how can they best do a responsible job of adhering to the resources that are provided to them.

Obviously, we have partnerships with countries throughout the world. One of the keys to our ability to deal with security challenges in the future is to be able to have alliances, to have partnerships, to work with organizations like NATO, the ASEAN ministers in the Pacific. And, frankly, this trilateral relationship is a reflection of that as well.

And, clearly, we need countries that are willing to, obviously, commit themselves to as strong a defense as possible. They have -- you know, they have a responsibility to be part of this effort to provide security in the world.

But I'm going to leave it to other countries to make the decisions that they have to make, as long as they do it in a way that ensures that, together, we can protect the security of our countries and try to protect the security of the world.

MODERATOR: Thank you.

MINISTER MACKAY: If I might just add very briefly, Secretary Panetta today and on previous occasions has emphasized and stressed the importance of partnerships and alliances. And that includes such things as interoperability, whether it be in training exercises, whether it be in joint operations as we've experienced in Afghanistan, in Libya, in Haiti in the humanitarian effort. And having equipment that is not only proficient for defense in our own capacity in our own country -- the home game, if you will -- being able to participate internationally requires -- demands these considerations around interoperability.

The F-35 is one example of that, a modern forward-looking example of that. In addition, I would add that this is the plane, the aircraft that the Royal Canadian Air Force, after an extensive internal examination of capabilities and what was on the market, came to us and said this is the plane we need, this is the plane that we want for a whole number of reasons.

Having said that, there is, of course, the necessity to do proper due diligence and analysis and ensure the taxpayers are being protected, that their best interests are given consideration as well. So we've done that.

On the aspect of budgets -- as we go forward, every department of government, every defense department, certainly all of our NATO partners, our Mexican colleagues, our friends around the globe are looking to prioritize their defense spending.

It would come as no surprise to anyone here that Canada is going through that exact same process in determining what our defense needs are at home, for continental security in North America, including our NORAD responsibilities, and to enable us to participate internationally as we've seen in Libya, Kosovo and also, of course, our ongoing efforts in Afghanistan.

MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. We'll take the next question.

Q: My name is -- (inaudible) -- correspondent for Televisa News Network in Washington, D.C., and my question is for Secretary Panetta and the secretary of defense of Canada. And if possible also, I would like to have a comment from the Mexican secretaries.

U.S. have reacted a little bit late to realize the threat of the organized crime. And they became very powerful. They are still getting very high-powered weapons in the U.S. and getting many -- a lot of money coming through the border to Mexico. This is making them powerful.

What U.S. can do to stop that flow of weapons and cash to destroy the cartels?

And in Canada -- Canada seems to be also reacting very slow to the threat. The cartels are trying to use Canada to smuggle also drugs to the U.S. What Canada is doing to strengthen the fight in Mexico and provide more support to them?

SEC. PANETTA: This is obviously one of the serious threats that is confronting North and Central and South America, is the -- are the drug cartels and the drug trafficking that is going on. But the danger here is, you know, on a number of fronts.

Number one, just the tremendous violence that's going on. I think the number that the Mexican officials mentioned was 150,000 who have died because of the violence, largely among these cartels in Mexico. But that violence is happening elsewhere, as well.

Secondly, it's the fact that they are seeking to impact and have largely young people involved with drugs. And it's not just in the United States. It's elsewhere where drug use is on the increase.

So they're looking to expand the use of their product wherever they are because that's what -- that's what keeps them going. And so that's a danger to all of our countries together that addiction that's going on.

Thirdly, they are continuing to try to undermine the law enforcement in these countries. There is corruption that's going on. That's part of their approach to dealing in these countries. And that undermines law and order. It undermines law enforcement.

There are a lot of contributing factors that are involved here. Obviously, weapons that move between our borders are of great concern. Our law enforcement is doing whatever it can to try to stop that movement of weapons across the border. It's difficult, not easy to do, but we are focusing on that effort. We are focusing on efforts to work with both Mexico and Canada to confront these cartels to make sure that we go after those targets and do everything possible to bring them to justice.

But I think that all of us -- and today has been an important day, because I think all of us recognize the importance of dealing with this threat to North America, this threat to our security, this threat to our people. And we are committed to doing everything possible to ensure that, ultimately, we can not only weaken but end this threat to our people.

PRIME MIN. MACKAY: Thank you, Leon.

I would begin by stating the obvious.

None of the three countries represented here live in splendid isolation, North America. We have a duty to the people that we represent to do everything we can to address these transnational criminal organizations, these cartels, as you describe them.

A problem in Mexico with drugs, with the movement of weaponry, human trafficking, if it's a problem for Mexico, it's a problem for Canada. We have over a million Canadian citizens that go to Mexico annually. We have a number of our citizens who make their second home in Mexico, as they do in the United States. So this is a shared problem.

And what you're seeing today is a reflection of a very strong desire on the part of all three countries to address these issues head-on. General Galvan gave us a very in-depth picture today of the extent, the depth, the seriousness of the challenge that Mexico is facing. And so what we want to do today, as we have been doing, but in a more formal way, address some of these challenges head-on -- human smuggling, movement of drugs, weapons across our borders -- because, quite frankly, these cartels, they don't recognize borders. They don't recognize nationalities. They're out to make as much money as they can as quickly as they can.

And so shared intelligence is one example of what we can do, sharing the information as to where these drugs may be coming ashore and being moved throughout the continent; the same with any illicit material, being able to talk to one another more effectively, more efficiently, and quickly to respond.

The same is true of other challenges that we have. It's the speed of the response that we're trying to increase, formalizing the relationship, empowering not only our militaries, as is the case in Canada and the United States. This defense, when it comes to drug use and trafficking, falls more into the purview of public safety -- our police, RCMP in our case, and municipal and provincial police forces. And we coordinate already between different agencies. In Canada, for example, the military work very much in support of the RCMP and police. But we have to do more in that regard.

One of the biggest and most challenging threats is movement on the water, the sheer volume of containers, for example, that come into North America from sources all around the world, and the screening of those containers that very often do contain illicit materials, including drugs.

So this very ambitious goal of coordinating our efforts goes beyond any one specific threat. Secretary Panetta has undertaken in today's meeting to try to quantify and prioritize these threats. Doing a threat assessment for North America as it pertains to all three countries, I think, will help us in our response; and then very much going about giving the tools, in some cases putting a legal framework in place or a formal memorandum of understanding that will allow our police, our militaries, to work more closely, in a more coordinated effect, and equipment. Using more high-tech equipment for the examination of containers is one example; using other types of surveillance to coordinate efforts to combat criminal activity.

So this, we believe, is the first in a long road of discovering how we can support one another more effectively and push back on this very serious threat to our security that is fueling so many of the other problems. Drugs are at the epicenter of some of this problem for Mexico and for all of our countries. But we really have to coordinate the effort in all of the knock-on effect or the ripple effect that comes from transnational criminal organizations, or the cartels, as you call them.

MODERATOR: We have time for two last questions, please.

Q: Could I just add one thing? The current model of cooperation between the U.S. and Canada could be the solution to fight this problem.

MIN. MACKAY: I think we should permit General Galvan to respond.

GEN. GALVAN: Yes. Thank you very much. I would like to make a comment on the question.

I would like to confirm that we were invited here by Mr. Peter MacKay in order to coordinate and cooperate. I think that is fundamental. It is with that spirit that we attended the meeting yesterday and today.

I had the opportunity to provide a diagnostic overview of the situation of drug trafficking on the continent. For me, it was very important for everyone to see the cruel face of drug trafficking, particularly in our country, where it is very present.

We did not come to point fingers, to say who is responsible for that. All governments must do something to fight drug trafficking on the American continent. I spoke of production on the continent. I talked about violence, about health issues and consumption issues. I talked about trafficking routes. And I also talked about the cartels that are operating in Mexico, Central America and South America mainly.

My idea was, above all, to give this general overview to raise awareness about the seriousness of the problem in Mexico. President Calderon, throughout all security and law enforcement agencies and the armed forces, had -- has undertaken a very important effort to try to resolve this problem. The armed forces participate in that struggle precisely because no other agency in the government was able to face drug trafficking at this time with regard to stopping the violence created by the cartels.

I want to be very clear. Violence is caused by drug traffickers in their struggle to gain control over routes and territories in order to be able to provide the drugs for consumption. It is not the armed forces, it is not law enforcement that is causing the problems. We are struggling against the scourge of narco traffic.

As Mr. Panetta said, it is important to look at all aspects of crime and drug trafficking. We have to see what we can agree to with regard to the production areas to be able to support the Mexican government in order to eradicate those productions. Marijuana is what gives drug trafficking networks the greatest resources to continue their nefarious work.

We want to increase our ability to intervene, not only by land but also by sea. We want to get a better understanding of the cartels. We want to generate intelligence that will enable us to move quickly and to strike hard. We want to break up the connections between them and we want public authorities to be able to contain that phenomenon.

I think that the armed forces will have to continue participating in this struggle until we have a professional and trustworthy law enforcement in the country. And that is one of the priorities for the Mexican president. It is a colossally huge job, given the fragmentation of our justice organizations. But the president of the republic has sown the seed in order to leave as a legacy to future administrations a very professional federal police force. And with regard to municipal and state police forces, they're starting to be rebuilt.

That is what I had to say. Thank you.

Q: Lolita Baldor with the Associated Press. This is for Secretary Panetta.

Mr. Secretary, you've probably heard that there was a poll released yesterday that showed that U.S. public support for the war has sharply declined. More than two thirds of the American public support the war, and about the same amount think that it's going either somewhat or very badly.

First, can I get your reaction to that and whether you think the administration isn't either explaining -- explaining its strategy to the public? And are you concerned that this may erode support among Congress and make it more difficult to get funding for the war?

And also for Minister MacKay, have you rethought or what do you expect any changes in Canada's support for the war in Afghanistan? Thank you.

SEC. PANETTA: We've been through 10 years of war in the United States, and there's no question that there -- you know, the American people are tired of war, just as the Afghan people are tired of war. And yet I think the American people understand why we're engaged in Afghanistan. 9/11 represented an attack on our country. Over 3,000 people gave their lives as a result of the attack on the United States. And in many ways, what al-Qaida did to the United States, that threat went out to the rest of the world.

And as a result of that, the world has come together to confront that threat. That's what got us involved in Afghanistan is the effort to ensure that that country would never again become a safe haven for al-Qaida or for their allies to be able to plan attacks on this country or any country for that matter.

We have -- you know, we've -- we have fought this war working with our allies, working with the other NATO nations. And, obviously, a lot of lives have been lost in that effort, but our commitment must be to ensure that those lives have not been lost in vain.

And we are convinced -- General Allen is convinced that 2011 represented an important turning point in that war. We have seen the level of violence go down. You know, we continue to have sporadic incidents of violence. Of course, this is a war; we're going to see that happen. But it shouldn't undermine our efforts to continue the strategy we're on.

We have seen areas being transferred to Afghan authority. We now have transferred -- transitioned to Afghan security and governance. Over 50 percent of their population is now under their security and their governance. And our goal is to complete that process of transition by mid-2013 as we ultimately draw down towards the Lisbon target of the end of 2014.

And lastly, the Afghan army has improved dramatically in terms of its operational skills. They are involved directly in operations. They're involved in providing security. And ultimately, that's going to be a very important answer to completing this mission.

So, you know, we cannot fight wars by polls. If we do that, we're in deep trouble. We have to operate based on what we believe is the best strategy to achieve the mission that we are embarked on. And the mission here is to safeguard our country by ensuring that the Taliban and al-Qaida never again find a safe haven in Afghanistan.

MIN. MACKAY: A Canadian prime minister once said that polls are for dogs. But with respect to this very serious question, are Canadians weary of war? Absolutely. Like the United States of America, like our NATO colleagues, we have been in Afghanistan for a decade. We have seen the scourge of war, the toll that it takes on soldiers in particular, families, the population at large.

But I think the matrix and the measures of progress are such, first and foremost, that the likelihood that North America -- and we considered the attack on 9/11 to be an attack on North America, to be an attack on Canada. We lost our citizens that day as well.

And it's the first time that NATO as an organization has invoked Article V. An out-of-area expeditionary mission that sees all participant nations there trying to bring about a lasting peace and stability is a monumental task. This is the greatest challenge of our generation, in my view, to prevent this type of attack from ever happening again.

And I dare say, if that is one measure of success, Afghanistan is no longer able to be an incubator and an exporter of terror.

The other measures that I think are very important and often overlooked are the change on the local population. In addition to what Secretary Panetta said about the enabling and empowering of the Afghan security forces, their army and police, and giving them the capacity and the skills that they need to defend their own borders, their own community, their own population, huge progress has been made in that regard.

Their numbers alone swell to over 300,000. Their professionalism, the ability to plan and execute and carry out their own sovereignty patrols and protection is enormous compared to where they were certainly a decade ago but even a few short years ago. Huge progress has been made.

Canada is heavily involved in the training mission now in and around Kabul. We have just number a thousand Canadian forces personnel there every day giving it their best to preserve the security gains that have been made, again, significant. I agree with the secretary. We are well on our way to eventually meeting those Lisbon targets of turning over complete security to the Afghan security forces.

But the other measure, the human measure that is there are the number of children, particularly girls, going to school. The growth in their education system, in basic health care, in infant mortality rates plummeting, in the intangibles -- the hope and the optimism that Afghan people feel in spite of all of the chaos around them and all of that they've experienced in recent years.

In my lifetime, I've never seen anything for inspirational than seeing the enthusiasm of children in Afghanistan to now have the chance to get an education. Those are the things you can't see often enough, in my view, to validate much of the sacrifice that has been made by many countries in Afghanistan.

And the responsibility ultimately now will fall to their government to pick up the slack, to continue to support and build capacity not just in their military but in all of their branches of government, to avoid corruption to a much greater degree and pressure from outside their countries which they've experienced throughout their history.

But Canada is there in partnership with the United States. I can't say enough about the leadership that we have seen from the American military on a very difficult, complex mission in what is a country that has been at the crossroads of chaos forever.

So this is our generation's war. This is a test of our perseverance, our ability to carry through for the long-term security of not just Afghanistan but the region and ultimately the entire world. So there's a lot at stake, and Canada will be there with our NATO partners. We're getting ready, of course, for the Chicago NATO summit; the first time we've held one in North America for some time. And it's going to be a very important pivotal point as we plan for post-2013 and how we support Afghanistan.

MODERATOR: One very last question.

Q: Paula Newton, CNN.

Secretary Panetta, will you be signing the paperwork to begin the process of transferring Omar Khadr from Guantanamo Bay to Canada? I know it's just the beginning of the process.

If you sign the paperwork -- when you sign the paperwork, if Canadia then decides they're going to receive him, will you view that as a good outcome as far as transferring a Guantanamo detainee?

SEC. PANETTA: I know that there are continuing negotiations to work out that transfer. I don't have a specific timeline for signing it. But once those arrangements have been made, obviously, we will approve the transfer to Canada.

Q: And just what will you think of that as an outcome? Do you think --

SEC. PANETTA: I think -- I think it's an important step. We've got others there, obviously, we would like to be able to move as well. But, you know, the steps we've taken here, the precautions we've taken here, I think, are an example that we'd like to follow in the future.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. This concludes today's event. (Speaking in French.) We ask you that you remain seated while our guests exit the room, please.

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