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Gates: Afghans Need to Accelerate Stabilization Efforts

Defense Secretary Robert Gates talks to Jim Lehrer about President Obama's decision to deploy 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan after the new year.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And to our interview with Defense Secretary Gates.

    I spoke with him a short time ago at the Capitol.

    Mr. Secretary, welcome.

  • ROBERT GATES:

    Thank you.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    How confident are you that the president's plan for Afghanistan is actually going to work?

  • ROBERT GATES:

    Well, I think that, if the members of his team and he did not believe that it would work, that we would — wouldn't have recommended it to him and he wouldn't have made the decisions.

    Clearly, this is a very difficult, very complex challenge, but we believe this is the best way forward.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    There are many — there are many steps involved in this. And one of them, of course, is, stop the momentum of the Taliban. You think that can be done with 30,000 troops, and along the lines the president has outlined?

  • ROBERT GATES:

    Yes, and in no small part because those 30,000 are joining another 68,000 American troops that are already there, another 44,000 non-U.S. troops. And we expect to get several 1,000 more.

    So, this is a quite considerable force. And General McChrystal, I think, has a lot of confidence that we can reverse the momentum with this.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    And when — when will the total force be on the ground in Afghanistan? In other words, the NATO forces, plus the American forces, when will it all be together and working?

  • ROBERT GATES:

    Well, I can only speak for the American forces at this point.

    The — the first U.S. units will probably begin to flow within a couple of weeks. I signed the deployment orders last night on Air Force One coming back from West Point. And the — the overwhelming majority of the U.S. forces will be in by the end of July, the full force probably the end of August, early September.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    And end of August and total troops on the ground, NATO and U.S.?

  • ROBERT GATES:

    Pretty close to 150,000 — well, excuse me, except that, again, I don't know exactly when the NATO forces, or non-U.S. forces, will be flowing.

    We do have some private commitments. I think there will be some announcements over the next few days. There will be some additional announcements, I expect, of consequence after the London conference in January on Afghanistan.

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