By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
Jan. 17, 2007 – The U.S. must stay committed to Afghanistan and do what's necessary to maintain the success that has been achieved there, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in Afghanistan yesterday. If U.S. commanders on the ground decide they need more troops to sustain that success, Gates said he would make that recommendation to President Bush.
"I've been concerned in the short time I've been in this position, to ensure that the success that we have had in Afghanistan, together, remain success and not be challenged," Gates said at a news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. "I think it's important for us to take the initiative in dealing with security threats (and) that we act together on this."
Gates was in Afghanistan for a three-day trip to meet with commanders on the ground and hear their recommendations as they prepare for a possible Taliban resurgence in the spring.
Gates said his meetings with U.S., NATO and Afghan officials were helpful. He also said he was impressed by the Afghan security forces he met earlier in the day. "The Afghan army is increasingly taking the lead in combat operations, and the force continues to grow in size, strength and confidence," he said.
The Afghan people have made significant progress in the years since they were under Taliban rule, Gates noted. Women who were once repressed are now serving in the parliament, helping decide the country's future, and 80 percent of the Afghan people have access to health care. He said he is confident that the U.S., NATO and the Afghan people working together will continue to make progress.
"We are helping rebuild a country and a society with roots stretching back to the beginning of human history," he said. "The United States, members of NATO and other allies, and the Afghan people understand the importance of success here in Afghanistan. We have had much success; we must build on that and make it enduring."
Speaking at the news conference, Karzai said that U.S. and Afghan forces will be ready to deal with any potential Taliban resurgence in the spring
"I can tell you with confidence that the Afghan people and the international partners -- the U.S., NATO -- are ready to give terrorism a serious blow when they come," Karzai said. "We want them to come and get defeated, so that we all can rest and enjoy our lives all over the world."
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