KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, June 5 (UPI) -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he believed the plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan would not undo the gains they had made over the years.
Speaking to military personnel on his last visit to the embattled nation, Gates said the withdrawal that begins next month would "strike the right balance."
"Nobody wants to give up the gains that have been won at such a hard cost, and nobody wants to give our allies the excuse to run for the exits," Gates said Sunday
CNN said Gates became choked up while thanking troops in Kandahar. He told them he felt their hardships and would "be in my thoughts and prayers, every day for the rest of my life."
Gates, who steps down at the end of June, said the withdrawal would likely include a mix of combat and support troops, and believed the stage could be set for a political agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban by the end of the year.