Gates says progress made in Afghanistan

June 10, 2011 at 5:21 AM
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BRUSSELS, June 10 (UPI) -- As Washington prepares to start troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates stressed there'll be "no rush to the exits on our part."

Speaking to reporters in Brussels, where he attended a NATO defense ministers meeting, the outgoing secretary said U.S. and coalition forces are making "substantial military progress" in Afghanistan.

"Even as the United States begins to draw down next month, I assured my fellow ministers that there will be no rush to the exits on our part -- and we expect the same from our allies," he said.

The secretary, in Brussels after visiting Afghanistan, cautioned the gains being made "could be threatened if we do not proceed with the transition to Afghan security ... in a deliberate, organized and coordinated manner."

Concerning Libya, he said the ministers affirmed a recent agreement to extend the NATO mission for another 90 days. He said NATO's "strikes are becoming more and more effective at degrading (Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's) regime's military capability."

Gates said he called on the alliance members to contribute military capabilities "so that the burdens are more evenly shared and thus more easily sustained over time."

The progress in the Afghan war includes denying the Taliban control of populated areas and to degrade their capability to the point where the Afghan national security forces could protect their own country, he said.

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