By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
The U.S.-Afghanistan relationship “is bonded in the blood of our sons and daughters,” Gates told Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Afghan Interior Minister Besmillah Khan Mohammadi before the three men and their senior staffs began their meeting.
The administration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai already has made much progress, and the Afghan national security forces have made “tremendous progress” in helping to secure the country, Gates said. The growth of
’s army and national police and their increasing ability to lead security operations has been “truly impressive,” he added. Afghanistan
More than 5,000 Afghan forces have been killed in action since 2006, the secretary noted, adding that their sacrifice is “something we appreciate and honor.”
Wardak said the Afghan casualties “are our patriotic duty,” and added that Afghans are “extremely grateful for the sacrifices of your sons and daughters who fought from so far away.”
“I strongly believe that our greatest tribute to them will be to realize the objectives of those brave soldiers who paid the ultimate price,” he added.
Afghans have “profound gratitude and everlasting appreciation” to the
, Wardak said. He added to Gates, “We are thankful for your personal engagement and leadership, … and I believe we will prevail.” United States
Afghan leaders are looking for a closer and stronger relationship with
leaders, Wardak said. “Whatever we have achieved, we could not have accomplished without your support,” he said. U.S.
Though plans call for
’s security forces to be responsible for the entire country’s security by the end of 2014, Afghanistan still will need Afghanistan help, Wardak said. “I do strongly believe that for U.S. to survive in that very volatile region, we need your help beyond 2014,” he said. Afghanistan
The meeting was the first of the U.S.-Afghanistan Security Consultations Forum, which Gates said he established “as an institution beyond 2014,” when
military forces are scheduled to leave U.S. . Afghanistan
The forum included Michèle Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy; Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and other defense officials to discuss building long-term cooperation between the two countries, as well as issues of immediate importance, according to a Defense Department statement.
The secretary said he hopes the forum would meet twice a year to discuss shared expectations for
, to set specific goals and objectives, and to demonstrate to others in the Afghanistan Central Asia region that the U.S.-Afghanistan partnership is putting on a path of improvement. Afghanistan
The meetings included a review of security gains across
in 2010, particularly in Afghanistan Helmand and provinces, where improved security provided by a surge of Afghan and NATO forces has enabled greater Afghan freedom of movement, commerce, and development, officials said. Kandahar
Talks focused on how to build on those gains this year, officials added, particularly in transitioning security to the Afghans.
Pentagon spokesman Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan told reporters that the leaders would meet for several hours today.
“This is looking to the future for a sustained and enduring relationship with
as a country, but also with the Afghan security forces,” he said. Afghanistan
The Afghan ministers and Gates also will discuss the gains of the last year and what needs to happen in the future to continue the progress, Lapan added.
“What will it look like past 2014?” he said. “These discussions will look beyond at what our relationship will be and what
military support will be needed after that date.” U.S.
(Jim Garamone of American Forces Press Service contributed to this report.)