Washington: NATO`s withdrawal from Afghanistan will be gradual and not a brusque "lights out" next August, the commander of international forces there, US General David Petraeus, said on Wednesday.
Asked about an exit date, Petraeus told NPR radio "the idea of some date out there is not unprecedented”, mentioning past practice in Iraq.
But the idea of an August date for a pullout is not a "lights out" moment, he added.
For those who had another impression, Petraeus stressed: "We just have to keep on explaining."
On the Taliban`s inroads in Afghanistan`s north, Petraeus said: "It`s a process that has been ongoing for years."
Yet when asked if NATO had dropped the ball on that account, Petraeus said that in the past they did not have means to carry out the kind of "comprehensive counterinsurgency" that was needed.
Now, we can "broadly say that we have the inputs right," he said.
"It`s not a conventional battle. It is slow progress. You take steps forward but you also take steps backward," Petraeus told NPR.