Kabul: US Defence Secretary Robert Gates
said on Saturday during his farewell trip to Afghanistan that
success of the US mission is paramount and the "most costly
thing of all would be to fail."
Gates, who`s retiring as Pentagon chief at month`s
end, flew to Afghanistan from a security conference in Asia to
bid goodbye to US troops and Afghan leaders.
Gates planned to meet with soldiers and Marines in
eastern and southern Afghanistan. He also scheduled talks with
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has been sharply critical
in recent days of NATO airstrikes that have killed and wounded
Aides said it was Gates` 12th trip to Afghanistan
since he became defence secretary in December 2006. Gates told
reporters before arriving in Kabul that although the war has
proved costly in blood and money, budget concerns should not
cut short the drive to succeed.
President Barack Obama has pledged to begin
withdrawing American troops in July, but no final decisions
have been made on the size of that withdrawal or the pace of
subsequent troop reductions.
Many in Congress are arguing for an early US exit from
Afghanistan, now that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has been
killed. They say the cost of the conflict, at more than USD
100 billion a year, is unsustainable.
Gates disputed that reasoning.
"Success of the mission should override everything
else because the most costly thing of all would be to fail,"
he said before flying to Afghanistan.