US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has begun his final visit to Afghanistan in the job, has assured the Afghan government that just because the country is entering a transition period of handing over security to the Afghans, does not mean America and its allies are starting a race to leave the country.
“While the international commitment here is strong and durable, that commitment is not infinite in either time or resources. For the upcoming transition to be successful, the Afghan government and security forces must be willing to step up and take more and more responsibility for governing and defending their own territory,” he said at a press conference with President Hamid Karzai.
Gates pointed to what he called “significant battlefield gains” against the Taliban in the last 18 months, particularly in their southern heartland,
and that if these could be consolidated there was a strong chance they could force political talks on some kind of reconciliation.