Defense Secretary Gates says US will be in Afghanistan for 'a few years'

Written by: Super Admin
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Washington, Aug.14 (ANI): U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said there is a possibility of an increased American military presence in Afghanistan, but warned that such a move would stretch military resources and could lead to a possible Afghan backlash.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, Gates painted a bleak portrait of the prospects for the US mission in Afghanistan.

Speaking at the Pentagon, Gates said he and Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had told US commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal, that "[they] want him to ask for what he thinks he needs", adding "I think you have to allow your commanders that freedom."

But with about 132,000 troops currently in Iraq, Gates said there were constraints as to how many extra troops could be sent to Afghanistan at least until after Iraq's elections in January.

Nearly 70,000 US troops will be in Afghanistan before the end of the year.

Gates also repeated his concerns about too big of a US military "footprint," in Afghanistan, saying at the moment, local residents see the coalition of forces as "their partner".

"I just worry that we don't know what the size of the military presence might be that would begin to change that," he said.

Barack Obama, the US president, has made Afghanistan one of his top foreign policy priorities and has already ordered an additional 21,000 troops to Afghanistan. That will push the number of US forces in the country to 68,000 before the end of the year.

In a report released this week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee warned Obama that unanswered questions about continuing US involvement in Afghanistan could frustrate the public. (ANI)

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