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Gates Says NATO Forces Ready for Decisive Blow in Afghanistan


U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates walks with a group of service members at Forward Operating Base Waltman, Sunday, June 5, 2011, in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates walks with a group of service members at Forward Operating Base Waltman, Sunday, June 5, 2011, in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says U.S.-led NATO forces in Afghanistan are on track to deliver a "decisive blow" against the Taliban.

Gates spoke Tuesday in Kabul as he wrapped up a four-day trip to visit American troops in southern and eastern Afghanistan. The trip is his last to the country before he steps down as Pentagon chief on June 30.

Gates said he believes that if coalition forces continue their momentum, they can "turn the corner" on the conflict in Afghanistan. He also thanked the troops for their service.

His comments come as U.S. President Barack Obama prepares to decide on the scope and pace of the drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan set to begin in July.

The president is scheduled to hold a video conference with his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai on Wednesday.

Obama met with his national security team Monday to discuss situation in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan. The meeting was the first since U.S. special forces killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden on May 2 in northern Pakistan.

Gates used a video link to be among the 26 participants in the meeting.

After the meeting, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president will make a decision on the drawdown of U.S. forces from Afghanistan relatively soon, after receiving a recommendation from military advisers. Carney said once that decision is made, Obama will report it to the American people.

Obama sent 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan in December 2009 and vowed to begin a pullout by mid-2011. There are about 90,000 American troops in Afghanistan, forming the bulk of the International Security Assistance Force.

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

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