Washington: US Secretary of Defence
Robert Gates has said accelerating troop withdrawals from Afghanistan because of Osama bin Laden`s death would be "premature."
The US covert raid that killed al Qaeda`s chief has
fuelled calls to scale back the massive US presence in
Afghanistan, just as President Barack Obama reviews plans to
begin pulling out some of the 100,000 troops there in July.
Gates, in an interview broadcast on the CBS news
show "60 Minutes", yesterday said it`s too early to consider speeding the pace of withdrawal.
"I think it`s premature," he said. "I think we just
don`t know. It`s only been a week. And people are already
drawing historical conclusions. I think that`s a little
Skeptics have seized on bin Laden`s demise to argue
that there is no reason to keep so many troops in Afghanistan
in a war originally launched after the September 11 attacks to
prevent al Qaeda from using the country as a sanctuary.
They point to military estimates that only about 200
Al-Qaeda operatives are left in the country, while a NATO-led
force has swelled to more than 140,000.
Gates, who is retiring June 30 after four and a half
years on the job, said bin Laden`s death could be a "game
changer" in the war in Afghanistan.
Gates, the only Pentagon chief to serve under
presidents from both major political parties, said "we could
be in a position by the end of this year, where we have turned
the corner in Afghanistan."
The 67-year-old has worked for the US government for
30 years, including a stint as director of the Central