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

Analysis: China Raises Hong Kong Rhetoric to Tiananmen Level

A front-page commentary in The People’s Daily called the current demonstrations 'chaos,' the same word Party officials used 25 years ago to describe the Tiananmen Square protests More

US Airstrikes Anger Syrian Civilians Fleeing Their Homes

Pentagon officials say they have seen no credible evidence of civilian deaths caused by US airstrikes against Islamic State militants More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid