SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

The World

March 7, 2011

Gates: US should stay involved in Afghanistan

BAGRAM, Afghanistan — U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday that both the U.S. and Afghan governments agree the American military should remain involved in Afghanistan after the planned 2014 end of combat operations to help train and advise Afghan forces.

"Obviously it would be a small fraction of the presence that we have today, but I think we're willing to do that," Gates told a group of U.S. troops at Bagram air field, which is headquarters for U.S. and NATO forces in eastern Afghanistan. "My sense is, they (Afghan officials) are interested in having us do that."

A soldier asked Gates about a long-term military presence, and Gates noted that Washington and Kabul have recently begun negotiating a security partnership. He mentioned no details. He was to meet later in the day with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Gates is at the start of a two-day visit with U.S. troops, allied commanders and Afghan leaders to gauge war progress as the Obama administration moves toward crucial decisions on reducing troop levels.

Gates planned to travel to eastern and southern portions of Afghanistan, the areas most fiercely contested by the Taliban insurgency.

Defense Department spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters flying with the Pentagon chief from Washington that Gates wants to get a first-hand feel for changes on the ground since he last was in Afghanistan in December.

The U.S. is committed to beginning a troop withdrawal in July. But the size and scope of the pullback will depend on the degree of progress toward handing off full control to the shaky Afghan government.

Morrell said Gates expects to hear from troops and commanders that U.S. and NATO strategy is making important progress against the relentless Taliban, who are thought to be gearing up for a spring offensive.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
The World

AP Video
U.K. Royal Australia Tour Hits Young Scene Raw: Deadly Bombing in Egypt Raw: Obama Arrives in Japan for State Visit Raw: Anti-Obama Activists Fight Manila Police Today in History for April 23rd 'Piles' of Bodies in South Sudan Slaughter Hong Kong Residents Help Create Green Roofs Raw: World Cup Trophy Begins Tour in Brazil Raw: Royal Couple Tours Uluru in Australia Chief Mate: Crew Told to Escape After Passengers Biden: Russia Must Stop Talking, Start Acting David Moyes Out As Manchester United Manager Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India Raw: Tesla Delivers First China Cars Biden Brings Message of Unity to Ukraine Today in History for April 22nd Raw: British Queen's Birthday Celebration Raw: Massive Fire at UK Industrial Site Raw: Mourners Gather for Peaches Geldof Funeral Raw: Biden Lands in Kiev for High-profile Visit
NDN Video
Stephen Colbert Tells David Letterman His Plan for 'Late Show' Georgetown police officer filmed tripping students Viral: It's Not Pitbull - It's Amy Poehler! Recycling Highlights for Earth Day Peeps Launched into Outer Space NYPD's Twitter Request For Photos Backfires New HBO Go Commercials Capture Awkward Family TV Watching Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India Rise of the Milkbots Jenna Dewan-Tatum Strips Down TRENDING: Brian Williams Raps 'Gin and Juice' on ‘Tonight Show’ Middle School heroes rescue students from burning bus WHOPPER OF FISHING STORY: Florida man catches massive Mako shark Maks Chmerkovskiy's "DWTS" Meltdown The many faces of Mike Woodson Ape Builds A Fire And Toasts Marshmallows In Amazing BBC Video Manchester Utd sack manager David Moyes "RHOA's" Dramatic Brawl High school, College Drug Ring Busted In Montgomery County High Court to Hear Dispute of TV Over Internet