Dissenting views have been exposed in senior US ranks on Afghanistan. The Defence Secretary has contradicted Nato’s commander and insisted that US troop levels will be reduced from next year in line with the Obama plan.
Last year the US president set July 2011 as the date to begin withdrawing forces, while strengthening the Afghan army’s presence. In the meantime he announced that 30,000 extra US troops were being sent to fight the Taliban.
On Sunday Nato’s new commander in Afghanistan said he did not regard next July’s date as binding. General David Petraeus added that he might advise Obama to delay the plan if he thought it was too early to begin pulling out.
Now the US government has moved to set the record straight. Defence Secretary Robert Gates says there is no question that the US will begin withdrawing troops next July – and says he intends to leave his post sometime next year.