Progress in Afghanistan slower than anticipated: Gates

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said the Obama Administration is committed to withdraw its troops from this war-torn country within 13 months as scheduled.

Washington: Noting that progress in
operations against Taliban in Afghanistan is somewhat slower
than anticipated, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates Sunday said
the Obama Administration is committed to withdraw its troops
from this war-torn country within 13 months as scheduled.

Appearing on the Fox News on a Sunday talk show, Gates
said that progress is being made in the war against terrorism
in Afghanistan.

"It`s somewhat slower than anticipated," he said.

"The Kandahar operation has actually been under way
for a number of weeks, and so what is taking more time is the
shaping of the environment before we actually engage with
troops and so on. So I think that, it is a tough pull, and we
are suffering significant casualties. We expected that," Gates
said.

"We warned everybody that would be the case last
winter, that as we went into areas that the Taliban had
controlled for two or three years that our casualties would
grow, especially this summer," he said.

Gates said that the commander of US forces in
Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal`s message to the NATO
Defence Ministers in Brussels was he is confident he will be
able to demonstrate by December that we not only have the
right strategy but that we are making progress.

Gates said the Afghan National Army will be ready to
assume primary responsibility for security in certain areas of
Afghanistan, certainly by a year from this coming July.

"We`re still looking at 13 months from now," he said.

"The reality is the Afghan national army is meeting
expectations and above that in terms of recruiting to the
larger numbers and toward the goal of 134,000 by this fall.

Their attrition and retention rates are both above
expectations and above the goals," he said.

PTI

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