Magazine article U.S. Department of Defense Speeches

Afghanistan-Pakistan Strategy Review

Magazine article U.S. Department of Defense Speeches

Afghanistan-Pakistan Strategy Review

Article excerpt

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, White House, Washington, DC, Thursday, December 16, 2010

I just returned a week ago from another trip to Afghanistan where I saw first-hand our efforts across the country and met with troops and commanders on the ground. I saw personally how international and Afghan forces have halted Taliban momentum throughout the country and are reversing it in their traditional strongholds of Helmand and Kandahar. The sense of progress among those closest to the fight is palpable. In my visit last week with troops at a base near Kandahar, I met with brave young men and women and their Afghan army partners who have taken new territory, cleared it, secured it, and held it--and who are now in the process of linking their newly established zone of security with those in Helmand province.

As we expected and warned, U.S., coalition and Afghan forces are suffering more casualties as we push into these areas long controlled by the Taliban. Fighting in the east, where I saw how our troops are focused on disrupting Taliban insurgents and preventing them from gaining access to population centers, has also picked up. But as a result of the tough fight underway, the Taliban control far less territory today than they did a year ago. The bottom line is that the military progress made in just the past three to four months--since the last of the additional 30,000 U.S. troops arrived--has exceeded my expectations.

Central to these efforts has been the growth of the Afghan security forces --in both size and capability--and they are ahead of schedule. More than 65,000 new recruits have joined the fight this year, and virtually all of them are now rifle-qualified, as opposed to only one-third in November 2009. Afghan troops are already responsible for security in Kabul and are increasingly taking the lead in Kandahar, where they make up more than 60 percent of the fighting forces. …

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