Gates at AUSA

By Kate Brannen / October 5, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, speaking this morning at the big AUSA convention in Washington, said President Obama’s upcoming decisions on the Afghanistan campaign would be among the most important of his presidency.

“So, it’s important that we take our time to do all we can to get this right,” he said.

He reminded military and civilian advisers that advice to the president should be given “candidly but privately,” bringing to mind Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s recent speech at the Institute of International and Strategic Studies in London, where he rejected calls to change strategy in Afghanistan. During the Oct. 1 speech, McChrystal was asked whether he would support a scaling back of efforts in Afghanistan to pursue a strategy focused on hunting Al Qaeda through limited air strike. “The short answer is: No," he said.

Gates’ remarks this morning reflected a somewhat different attitude.

“And speaking for the Department of Defense, once the commander in chief makes his decisions, we will salute and execute those decisions faithfully and to the best of our ability,” said Gates.

To support operations in Afghanistan, Gates said he has ordered additional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, “including the most advanced drones, such as the MC-12 unmanned aerial vehicle,” as well as additional explosive ordnance disposal teams. He also noted the delivery of the first M-ATVs to theater last week “only three months after the initial contract was awarded.”