By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
June 11, 2010 - Support for the mission in Afghanistan from allies and partners has increased steadily in the past year, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today.
At a news conference following the conclusion of two days of meetings with his fellow NATO defense ministers, Gates said the alliance's defense leaders generally agree that the effort in Afghanistan is moving in the right direction and that they realize the road ahead will be long and hard.
They also believe the elements of success – troops, civilians, strategy, growing Afghan security forces' capacity – are in place or moving forward, and that the coalition has regained the initiative and progress is being made slowly, steadily and sustainably, Gates said.
Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of international and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, briefed the defense ministers today.
"General McChrystal told the ministers that he is confident that he'll be able to show progress in the south and across the country, and that the strategy is working, by the end of the year," the secretary said.
More trainers are needed in the effort to train Afghan security forces, Gates noted, an issue he said is directly tied to the pace at which international forces will be able to transition security responsibility to the Afghans.
"It seems to me that particularly for those countries that do not have a large combat presence in Afghanistan," the secretary said, "providing trainers is another way to serve."
In a news conference earlier today, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen reaffirmed the alliance's commitment to the Afghanistan mission, and noted McChrystal's straight-forward assessment of progress and challenges.
"What General McChrystal heard from all 46 nations around the table was equally straight-forward," the NATO secretary general said. "ISAF will stay as long as it takes to finish the job, because ... an unstable Afghanistan where terrorists can find safe haven is a menace to us all, and because a stable Afghanistan means a safer world."
Rasmussen said he pushed the alliance's defense ministers to "dig deeper" to help the NATO training mission's 450-trainer shortfall.