As he ended a two-day visit to Afghanistan, Thursday, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Afghan military commanders the United States intends to be their partner for a long time to come.
Secretary Gates' visit focused on the continuing Afghan need for security assistance and the long-term American and international commitment to provide that help. The secretary added a stop to his schedule Thursday morning to deliver his message directly to a group of Afghan commanders at Kabul's airport.
"This is the first time in Afghan history when foreign military forces are here to help Afghans," he said. "And, we all intend to be your partners for a long time into the future.
Gates said the United States will fulfill its commitment to Afghanistan, and paid tribute to the sacrifices of Afghan and American troops.
"This is a relationship forged in blood. We will see it through together," Gates said.
Several Afghan commanders responded with thanks, particularly for the revised strategy announced by President Barack Obama, last week, and for the addition of 30,000 more U.S. troops to help establish security and to train Afghan forces.
Earlier in his visit, Secretary Gates said the United States is prepared to provide troops to help Afghan forces for several years beyond the July 2011 date President Obama has established to begin withdrawing U.S. troops. And, the secretary said the United States and the international community are prepared to provide funding for Afghanistan's security forces for a decade or more after that.