News / Asia

Gates in Afghanistan, Cites 'Tough Fight'

Defense Secretary Robert Gates watches flight operations aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea', 6 Dec 2010
Defense Secretary Robert Gates watches flight operations aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea', 6 Dec 2010
Al Pessin

During a visit to Afghanistan, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said U.S. troops in some areas are in a "tough fight," and any progress must be measured at a very local level.  His top commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, said the Taliban still has the momentum in some areas, but that allied progress is beginning to have a broader, psychological impact.  

Secretary Gates flew into Eastern Afghanistan, not far from the Pakistani border, and told reporters he found U.S., allied and Afghan troops there in a tough fight.

"I think these guys being close to the border do face some special challenges, and have taken some serious losses," Gates said. "There is no question, being here close to the border, that they are in a tough fight."

Secretary Gates said there is "selective" good news, with "real headway" in security and governance in some areas.  But he said in Afghanistan, it is difficult to generalize.

"The lesson learned here is that you should not generalize about Afghanistan," Gates said. "You should not even generalize from regional command to regional command or province to province, that you really have to take it a district at a time, and maybe even more local areas than that, and diversify your strategy depending on the local conditions in terms of whether [U.S. troop] presence contributes to security or detracts from security.  And that may differ from one valley to the next."

With the surge of international forces in place for several months now, and President Barack Obama's deadline for beginning a drawdown just eight months away, U.S. commanders are fielding questions about whether their areas are ready for a reduction of forces.  Speaking to reporters Tuesday, General Petraeus repeated his view that allied and Afghan forces have seized momentum in most parts of the country, but not all.

"Clearly, again, the Taliban does have still areas in which it has the freedom of movement, in some cases still has arguably the momentum, and so therefore there's more work to be done in those areas," Petraeus said.

Also Tuesday, the U.S. commander in Southwestern Afghanistan, including volatile Helmand Province, told reporters he is seeing enough progress to at least contemplate reducing his troop numbers in some areas, but not in the region as a whole.  Major General Richard Mills spoke via satellite with reporters at the Pentagon.

"I can say that I think that the situation on the ground will allow me to make some readjustments within my force as to where I apply my efforts, and where I apply my main force, and where I have people on the ground over the course of the next few months," Mills said.

But General Petraeus said local progress in key areas is more significant than it might appear.

"The progress of recent months in particular has been important, both on the ground and, I think even in a sense, psychologically because it has demonstrated we could, and 'we' now meaning ISAF and Afghan forces together, could indeed take away very important areas, areas that mean a great deal to the Taliban," Petraeus said.

Still, in an interview with ABC News this week, Petraeus declined to express confidence that the allied and Afghan effort will succeed by 2014 - the target date Afghan and NATO leaders have set for transferring security authority to Afghanistan.  Petraeus is now participating in President Obama's promised December Afghanistan strategy review, designed to identify any needed adjustments.  But officials say they do not expect major changes in the only one-year-old plan.  

Petraeus said the new emphasis on the hoped-for end of major allied involvement in 2014, rather than on the planned beginning of the drawdown next year, is already having a positive impact.  He said local Afghan leaders have told him they are more confident of continued foreign help than they were before.

You May Like

Isolation, Despair Weigh on Refugees in Remote German Camp

Refugees resettled near village of Holzdorf deep in German forestland say there is limited interaction with public, mutual feelings of distrust

Britons Divided Over Bombing IS

Surveys show Europeans generally support more military action against Islamic State militants, but sizable opposition exists in Britain

Russia Blacklists Soros Foundations as 'Undesirable'

Russian officials add Soros groups to a list of foreign and international organizations banned from giving grants to Russian partners

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs