By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
PRAGUE, June 15, 2011 – Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III met here today with Czech Republic officials, thanking them for stepping up their role in Afghanistan and discussing the way ahead in a growing military-to-military relationship between their countries.
After meeting with U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic Norman Eisen and members of the U.S. country team here, Lynn met for a half hour with Czech Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra, and later in the day he met with Czech Chief of Defense Gen. Vlastimil Picek.
During a news conference with Vondra after their meeting, Lynn said they discussed current operations in Afghanistan and the progress being made toward the transition to Afghan security control by the end of 2014, noting that the Czech contingent in Afghanistan will rise to more than 700 members this year.
“Additional Czech trainers and mentors will improve the capabilities of Afghan security forces and the Afghan military as we prepare them for this important transition,” Lynn said. “This contribution is vital.”
The deputy secretary added that he conveyed his gratitude to the Czech armed forces for their contributions to the International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan, as well as in Kosovo and Iraq.
“The professionalism of Czech troops and civilian specialists in Afghanistan is highly valued by allied command and staff,” including ISAF Commander Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, Lynn said. He expressed condolences on behalf of the American people for the recent loss of a Czech soldier in Afghanistan.
“As someone who has met with many families of fallen warriors in my own country,” he said, “I can tell you that there is no more sobering reminder of the costs of establishing peace and security.”
In addition, Lynn said, he and Vondra discussed the Czech Republic’s White Book on Defense, a plan for improving and reforming the country’s military and its defense procurement system.
“The United States applauds these efforts,” he said, “because they make a good and capable ally an even better and stronger one.”
The deputy secretary noted that the United States is going through a similar effort, as all countries face difficult choices in seeking to spend their scarce resources wisely.
“A transparent and efficient procurement process ensures that taxpayers’ money is properly spent, that service members are well equipped, and that we as NATO allies are making the necessary contributions for our collective security and defense,” he said. “These improvements will lead to even more opportunities for defense cooperation.”
The United States has been able to provide the Czech armed forces with significant assistance in terms of training, communications modernization and air crew equipment, Lynn said.
“These opportunities to train together and to fight our adversaries using common tools are among the many mutual benefits of our strategic relationship,” he added.
Lynn noted that U.S.-Czech cooperation in helicopter operations and training is a particular area that is yielding important results.
“Not only is the Czech Republic preparing Afghan pilots as part of our NATO mission,” he said, “we also are working together on several current and future projects that will expand both U.S. and Czech capabilities to support a range of potential missions.”
Lynn also cited the National Guard’s State Partnership Program as an important area of cooperation between U.S. and Czech forces. Citizen-soldiers and –airmen from Texas and Nebraska have worked with the Czech armed forces toward mutual improvement of their disaster-relief and mass-casualty operations.
“As you can see, our strategic defense relationship is a broad one,” he said. “Minister Vondra and I are both committed to continuing and expanding our partnership.
“Together,” he added, “I am confident we can meet the critical security challenges of the 21st century.”