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Bush Acknowledges Tough Fight in Afghanistan


U.S. President George Bush says American and coalition forces are engaged in a tough fight in Afghanistan, and troop levels are under constant review. VOA's Paula Wolfson has details from the White House.

June was the deadliest month for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. It was also the second month in a row that coalition troop loses in Afghanistan were greater than in Iraq.

President Bush says he is aware of the difficulties American and allied forces are facing.

"It has been a tough month in Afghanistan, but it has also been a tough month for the Taliban," said President Bush.

He says the coalition losses may be high because they are taking the battle to the enemy.

"One reason why there have been more deaths is because our troops are taking the fight to a tough enemy - an enemy that does not like our presence there because they do not like the idea of America denying safe haven," said Mr. Bush.

The Bush administration has been urging other countries to step up their troop commitments to Afghanistan, with France and Great Britain among those offering a positive response.

There are about 32,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The Bush administration has told NATO allies it plans to send more troops in 2009. But President Bush indicates some could go earlier, saying the number remains under review.

The top U.S. military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, admits there are not enough coalition troops currently in Afghanistan to hold territory taken from the Taliban. He says NATO will never be able to provide enough troops to do the job, and says he hopes to get extra American forces in as soon as they are available.

"I don't have troops I can reach for, brigades I can reach to send into Afghanistan until I have a reduced requirement in Iraq," said Admiral Mullen. "And we're on an increasingly positive path in Iraq, in lots of dimensions, and so I'm hopeful towards the end of the year opportunities like that would be created."

But Admiral Mullen says he does not have a specific timeline for sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. The admiral also welcomes Pakistan's effort during the past week to crack down on militants in its tribal areas, along the Afghan border. He says it is important for Pakistan to sustain that effort in order to deny insurgents the safe havens they have been using to launch attacks on Afghanistan.

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