Probably we can do more. But Secretary Clinton and I and the president and the vice president and General Jones have all been out and -- and talking about this. And -- and I think -- you know, frankly, one of the things that I find frustrating is that I think that the president's strategy is really quite clear. I hear -- I hear all the stories that say what's the strategy, what's the goal here?
I think it's quite clear. It's to -- it's to reverse the momentum of the Taliban, deny them control of populated areas, degrade their capabilities at the same time we're building up the Afghan security forces, so that the Afghan security forces can deny the Taliban and al Qaeda a base from which to attack the United States and the West.
AMANPOUR: All right.
GATES: It's pretty straightforward.
AMANPOUR: OK. Then let me -- since you brought that up, I want to bring up what Vice President Biden told NBC earlier this week about the strategy and about -- about the aims, because, again, I think the American people and many people are confused about what is the -- what is winning, what is the strategy right now?
Let me put that up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are in Afghanistan for one express purpose -- al Qaeda. The threat to the United States -- al Qaeda that exists in those mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan. We are not there to nation-build.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Is that it?
GATES: That's good.
AMANPOUR: Is that the war?
GATES: I agree with that. We are not there to -- to take on a nationwide reconstruction or construction project in Afghanistan. What we have to do is focus our efforts on those civilian aspects and governance to help us accomplish our se -- our security objective.
We are in Afghanistan because we were attacked from Afghanistan, not because we want to try and -- and build a better society in Afghanistan.
But doing things to improve governance, to improve development in Afghanistan, to the degree it contributes to our security mission and to the effectiveness of the Afghan government in the security arena, that's what we're going to do.
AMANPOUR: A final question, do you think the way out is to strike a deal with the Taliban?
GATES: I think that the -- I think that the way out is to improve the security situation in Afghanistan to the point -- and to degrade the Taliban to a degree where they are willing to consider reconciliation on the terms of the Afghan government -- detaching themselves from al Qaeda, agreeing that -- to under -- abide by the Afghan constitution, agreeing to put down their weapons. I think those are the -- those are the conditions that -- that need to -- reconciliation must take -- must be the end game here. But it must take place on the terms of the Afghan government.
AMANPOUR: And you think that can happen in -- in a year?
GATES: Well, we're not limited to a year. I think that it can happen in the time frame that we're looking at ahead. Again, July 2011 is not the end. It is the beginning of a transition.
AMANPOUR: Secretary Gates, thank you so much for joining us.
GATES: Thanks a lot.
AMANPOUR: Thank you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNKNOWN): Wikileaks, along with three major newspapers, has published 92,000 classified intelligence documents, the largest leak in history.
GIBBS: There are names. There are operations. There's logistics. It poses a very real and potential threat.