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US Reports Steady Progress in Afghanistan

White House officials say U.S. troops and their allies are making steady progress against militants in Afghanistan.

President Barack Obama held a video conference call with his national security team on Afghanistan and Pakistan Friday. They discussed increased success on recent military efforts by the U.S. and its allies.

White House Officials said President Obama was joined by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal and others.

Mr. Obama and his team praised Afghan and international forces' military achievements in Marja, a major city in the Taliban stronghold of Helmand province.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says that General McChrystal also reported that the U.S. military is keeping President Obama's commitment to send 30,000 additional U.S. troops to the war-torn country. "We were on schedule on our force flow in getting additional forces approved by the president into Afghanistan by the end of summer," he said.

But, Gibbs said Mr. Obama's security team now relies heavily on the Afghan government to take over future efforts to secure the Afghan people. "We're not going to be there forever, not only are we going to need improved governance but we're going to need a police force that can keep the peace," he said.

The council also discussed NATO's contributions to improve the training of Afghan forces. NATO's Training Mission Commander, U.S. Lieutenant General William Caldwell said early this month Afghan police officers had not been given formal training until recently, and Gibbs said problems such as this must be addressed immediately. "We have critical improvements that have to be made as it relates to an Afghan national army, and critical improvements that have to be made in an Afghan national police, and the importance of getting additional trainers from NATO countries to Afghanistan as quickly as possible," he said.

Gibbs said the security team also stressed the need of continued support from neighboring Pakistan, which he says is increasing every day. "We've enjoyed almost an unprecedented level of cooperation with them, dating back probably almost a year now to extremist movements that threatened the Pakistanis and I think in many ways alerted them to many of the concerns that we have long had," he said.

Pakistan has captured several Taliban leaders in recent weeks.

Gibbs says U.S. Islamabad Ambassador Anne Patterson reported that Pakistan's increased action against Taliban and al-Qaida militants on its territory has been a critical addition in the international fight against terrorism.

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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.