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

Bleak China Economic Outlook Rattles Markets

Several key European stock indexes were down up to three percent, while US market indexes were off around 2.5 percent in afternoon trading More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs