"The main reason I'm here today is to have a conversation to hear your thoughts and to answer any questions you may have about us about our goals and future plans concerning this region," Gates said in opening his remarks.
After presenting his prepared remarks, Gates dismissed the media from the room so he and the Pakistani officers could have an open exchange. Their questions ran the gamut, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters after the session.
One officer asked Gates to explain his statement earlier this week in New Delhi, where he said India demonstrated "great restraint and statesmanship" following the 2008 Mumbai bombings, but could be hard-pressed not to react more strongly even violently-- if a similar incident occurred again.
Another asked Gates if the United States would be willing to intervene to relieve long-simmering Indian-Pakistani tensions something Gates said both countries have expressed they'd rather deal with themselves.
Several of the questions concerned Afghanistan from Gates' thoughts about reconciliation with the Taliban, to how to grow and sustain the Afghan national army despite lack of Afghan resources to support the effort.
One of the more provocative participants challenged Gates about the difficulties "the American war" in Afghanistan has put on Pakistan. "The tone of it was, ... 'We are in this mess because of you,'" Morrell said.
Gates "took great exception" to the comment, telling the officer problems created by the Taliban government in Afghanistan, as well as al Qaida and its affiliates, were going to impact Pakistan.
"It was only a matter of time before they were dragged into it as well, because al Qaida had designs on a caliphate" that inevitably included Pakistan, Morrell said. "The notion that you could be immune from them that grand plan is not realistic," he said.