Kabul Gates Afghan
June 5, 2011 by staff
Kabul Gates Afghan, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday the United States was unwilling to abandon Afghanistan and the gradual withdrawal of combat troops would take place slowly and responsibly. The U.S. government face a delicate balance to decide how many troops to withdraw – a decision expected next month – and no set number of “make our allies on the run for the exits, and we think we are,” Gates said during a visit Afghanistan.
“We want the Afghans or any other kind in the region to which we are pulling up stakes and taking (off) here,” Gates said when asked about the disposition of funds by a soldier at a forward operating base in southern Helmand province. Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the 150,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan will soon make recommendations to President Barack Obama, after Obama’s pledge last year to begin to bring U.S. combat troops home.
That commitment followed Obama December 2009 decision to send 30,000 U.S. troops in an attempt to stem a growing Taliban insurgency.
“General Petraeus has made recommendations to the president. I know I’ll present the options and risks associated with each of these options,” said Gates.
Fighting increased dramatically, especially in the heart of the Taliban in the south, as the last of the troops arrived last summer. Gates said he also had to decide how long the “surge” of troops would remain.
U.S. commanders say that there have been significant gains to stop the momentum of the Taliban in the south, since then, but violence has erupted in other parts of Afghanistan, especially in the east and complex attacks in major cities.
Pentagon officials and White House are tight-lipped about the size of the initial withdrawal. Obama is expected to announce its decision sometime in mid-July.
Gates said he had made good progress in training Afghan police and soldiers enough properly to permit the gradual withdrawal until the end of 2014, under an agreement reached at a NATO summit last December.
“LET THE LAST HANDLES”
Gates described the July decision to withdraw and the withdrawal of the 30,000 surge troops as “bookends.”
“When do you take out the increase? I think that is the final second, if you will, in the decision that I believe the president is going to have to do over the coming weeks,” said Gates.
Earlier this year, with the violence plaguing Afghanistan after nearly a decade of war, an initial withdrawal of around 5,000 troops had been expected.
With U.S. commanders now trumpeting the success of their offensive in the south, officials and former officials say that Obama might announce a withdrawal of at least 10,000.
Some U.S. lawmakers andanlysts, however, have questioned the wisdom of all the troops out as soon after the security gains made and lingering doubts about poorly equipped Afghan security forces minimally trained.
Asked about the provision of funds by a soldier at a base in neighboring Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, Gates said the discussions could start after returning from his current trip, the 12 and the latter as Pentagon chief.
He said that progress in “degrading to the Taliban,” had to be maintained and to help determine the decision on the size of the initial reduction. He also intimated that he preferred the frontline troops to stay.
“If it were me, I would go to the shooters to the last,” he told troops at the base outside the city of Kandahar.
Gates, who will leave in late June, landed Saturday on a trip to say goodbye mostly U.S. troops.
The troop withdrawal coincides with a growing recognition of the need for a political solution, including negotiations with the Taliban and other insurgents willing to renounce violence and ties to Al Qaeda.
Slow movement of the attempts to establish contact with the Taliban, in the future too more substantive talks have been ongoing for over a year.
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