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Gates to Press NATO Allies for More Support in Afghanistan

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is in Belgium for a two-day NATO meeting that will focus, in part, on the multi-national effort to battle Taliban forces in Afghanistan.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer says alliance ministers have decided to gradually reduce NATO's 14,000 member force in Kosovo to 10,000. The ministers have long been looking for ways to reduce the NATO mission in Kosovo as they face mounting challenges in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Gates traveled to Brussels from the Netherlands, where he attended a meeting with NATO ministers on Wednesday. That session also included talks on the Afghan effort.

Gates told reporters traveling with him to Brussels that he believes for the first time, assets are being put in place to "have a reasonable prospect of success in beginning to shift the momentum."

He added that Congress and the American people would probably continue to support the U.S. effort if "we can show we are making progress." However, he said that if after a year it appears the war is stalemated with mounting casualties, then "that patience would wear thin."

On Wednesday, Dutch Major General Mart de Kruif said thousands of new U.S. troops should be in place in southern Afghanistan in time for the country's presidential elections in August.

The NATO commander told reporters the influx of troops will initially cause a spike in violence, but will eventually strengthen the fight against Taliban militants.

U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered 21,000 additional American troops to Afghanistan to fight a growing Taliban insurgency.

About 7,000 U.S. troops have already arrived in Afghanistan, and the rest are expected during the next few months. Thousands more support personnel are also on the way.

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