Accessibility links

New US Envoy Prepares for South Asia Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama has held private talks with Defense Secretary Robert Gates about the war in Afghanistan, as his new special envoy prepares for a trip to the region.

Details of Monday's talks at the White House were not released. The Obama administration is reviewing U.S. policy on Afghanistan and considering boosting troop numbers by as much as 30,000. A spokesman said no final decision has been made.

A U.S. military report on Afghanistan released Monday blamed government ineffectiveness, safe havens in Pakistan, and an increase of foreign troops in formerly rebel-held areas for a spike in violence last year.

The report said it will take decades to build a fully competent and independent Afghan government, which it described as hampered by pervasive corruption, weak leadership, and entrenched bureaucracy.

On Tuesday, veteran U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke leaves on his first trip as Mr. Obama's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Holbrooke will participate in a security conference in Germany from Friday to Sunday before flying to Afghanistan and Pakistan early next week.

Pakistan's prime minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani, said Sunday he is disappointed that the new envoy's mandate will not include his country's dispute with India over Kashmir. India opposes any link between Kashmir and unrest in Pakistan.

Last week, Afghanistan's foreign minister met in Islamabad with top Pakistani officials ahead of Holbrooke's visit. Both sides expressed their readiness to strengthen cross-border cooperation on fighting terrorism and militancy.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.