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

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing 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.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid