Pentagon chief plans Afghan visit to boost Karzai
WASHINGTON, Jan 12 (Reuters) US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Friday said he would visit Afghanistan in the next few days, seeking ways to boost President Hamid Karzai's government and stop resurgent Taliban militants.
The Taliban re-emerged as a serious threat in Afghanistan last year, with its hardline Islamist militants fighting deadly battles with NATO-led forces in the south of the country.
''I'm going back out to the region myself in a few days and I'm starting in Afghanistan,'' Gates told the US Senate Armed Services Committee, responding to a question about the US military's ability to meet its global commitments.
The visit will be Gates' first trip to Afghanistan since taking over from Donald Rumsfeld last month as Pentagon chief.
''One of the things I'm focused on is what will it take to reverse the trendline in Afghanistan and to strengthen the Karzai government,'' Gates said.
More than 4,000 people were killed in violence in Afghanistan last year. It was the bloodiest year since 2001 when US-led forces overthrew the Taliban government, which they accused of harboring September 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.
''We mustn't let this one slip out of our attention and, where we have had a victory, put it at risk,'' Gates said.
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