News / Asia

Gates Says Afghan Effort Goes Better Than It Appears

TEXT SIZE - +
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

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population 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.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid