Defense Secretary Robert Gates is in Europe for a meeting with NATO allies on Afghanistan and troop cuts in Kosovo, among other issues. Gates' visit comes as Washington hopes to turn around a brutal seven-year war in Afghanistan.
During his first stop in the Netherlands on Wednesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates outlined the main subjects he would address with NATO counterparts during two days of talks.
Not surprisingly, Afghanistan, one of the thorniest issues facing the transatlantic alliance, is high on the agenda. Gates said the talks aimed to take stock of the situation and of new US forces that are being sent in.
"And the other point that I will be emphasizing is the continuing high importance of our partners staying with us and keeping us truly an international coalition battling the Taliban in Afghanistan," he said.
Some 21,00 more American troops are flowing into Afghanistan as Washington tries to reverse the tide of the war against the Taliban insurgency. Many of the soldiers are heading to the volatile south. A NATO commander said Wednesday the troops should be in place before Afghanistan's elections in August.
But Europeans have been reluctant to boost their own troop presence in Afghanistan. Washington also wants to place new emphasis on training Afghan military and police. The Europeans are also sending in trainers but the Afghan government wants them to boost their numbers.Afghanistan will likely be on the agenda Thursday as well, when NATO defense ministers meet in Brussels. The ministers are also expected to back plans to cut NATO's 15,000-man peacekeeping force in Kosovo by one-third in January. That could free up forces to be deployed in Afghanistan.