- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday that a strong Afghan army and police force is the best “exit ticket” for the United States out of Afghanistan.

He told the Senate Armed Services Committee in his first appearance as Pentagon chief in the Obama administration that “our highest priority needs to be increasing the size” of the Afghan army and training it with U.S. help. He said there is enough money the budget for that.

“A strong Afghan army and a strong Afghan police represents the exit ticket for all of us” from Afghanistan, Mr. Gates said.

Earlier, he said that the United States is prepared to deal with any military threat from China.

“We have the capability in place to deal with any Chinese threat for some time to come,” he said.

President Obama kept Mr. Gates in place as defense secretary, a post to which he was appointed Dec. 18, 2006 by then-President Bush.

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