News / Asia

Gates Says Afghan Effort Goes Better Than It Appears

Al Pessin

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says high casualties in Afghanistan and slow progress in key areas are making the situation appear worse than it is.  Gates and the top U.S. military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, faced questions Wednesday from senators concerned about reports of problems and delays in the operation to assert Afghan government control in Taliban strongholds in the South.  

U.S. officials acknowledge that last week, with more than 20 American casualties, was a very bad week in Afghanistan.  But Secretary Gates says an increase in casualties was expected as 30,000 more U.S. troops flow into the country and initiate operations in Taliban strongholds like the town of Marja and the city of Kandahar.  But he said people should not expect dramatic results this early in the implementation of the new strategy.  

"I think frankly that the narrative over the last week or so, possibly because of the higher casualties and other factors has been too negative," said Robert Gates. "I think that we are regaining the initiative.  I think that we are making headway."

Admiral Mullen told the senators the effort in the main southern city, Kandahar, a key Taliban stronghold, is entering a new phase.  He said military strikes against Taliban facilities and talks with local leaders are giving way to a new focus on putting more Afghan forces into the city and improving security along key roads.

"None of this will be easy," said Admiral Mullen. "None of this will be bloodless, as events last week grimly attest.  But all of it will depend heavily on the continued growth and development of competent and well-led Afghan National Security Forces, as well as tangible and achievable political outcomes."

Last week, the U.S. and coalition commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, said the Kandahar effort will take longer than he had expected, and officials have acknowledged slow progress in Marja.  Admiral Mullen said Wednesday the southern Afghanistan campaign will be very gradual and very tough.  He said he shares what he called "the angst" the senators were expressing, but he believes the strategy will succeed.  He could not say how long that will take.

Senators expressed frustration with the pace of progress since President Barack Obama announced his revised Afghan strategy in December.  But Secretary Gates counseled patience, noting that all the surge forces have not even arrived yet.

"This is not some kind of a production program, or something, where you are going to meet these particular objectives this week and next week," he said. "This is a process.  We think we have the right assets.  We have the right strategy.  We have the right leadership.  And most of our allies and partners share our view that things are heading in the right direction and that we will be able to show clear progress and that we are on the right track by the end of this year."

Gates said General McChrystal is confident he will be able to show progress by the end of the year, when the president's next strategy assessment is planned.

In fact, he said there are already discussions about transferring responsibility for some Afghan provinces to the Afghan government fairly soon.

"We're already talking about which ones of those will happen and can we do some of them beginning toward the end of the year or early next year," said Gates. "So as we did province-by-province in Iraq, I suspect that that's the way it will happen in Afghanistan as well."

Gates said that over time he expects the war in Afghanistan will end the way the war in Iraq is ending, with a gradual transition to local responsibility for security and government, and a withdrawal of foreign forces.

President Obama's target date for beginning what is expected to be a slow U.S. withdrawal is July of next year, and Admiral Mullen noted that is more than a year away and said the number of troops that will come out, and exactly where they will come from, will be based on the situation at the time.  

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs