Saturday, June 4, 2011

Gates vows longer stay in Afghanistan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai (R) listens as US Defense Secretary Robert Gates (L) speaks during a press conference at the Presidential Palace in Kabul on June 04, 2011.

Source: Press TV

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has once again stated that Washington is not planning to pull its troops out of Afghanistan anytime soon.

Gates was speaking in the Afghan capital, Kabul, where he arrived on Saturday for meetings with American and Afghan officials.

The outgoing US defense secretary said he is in favor of the current war strategy, which allows US-led forces to attack Afghan homes while hunting down militants.

"Making any change prior to that time (2014) would be premature."

Thousands of Afghans have so far been killed during military operations by foreign troops.

President Hamid Karzai has recently called for an end to all coalition air strikes on Afghan homes.

Karzai said on Sunday that such incidents are "murdering Afghanistan's children and women."

However, the US-led military alliance has forcefully defended its night raids on Afghan homes. NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said on Tuesday that air strikes on residential areas in Afghanistan were necessary.

Gates' visit comes amid growing Afghan opposition to the US-led war in Afghanistan.

This is while US President Barack Obama had pledged a major draw down from Afghanistan by July 2011.

Washington says the transition does not mean that Afghan forces will be in charge everywhere. Obama has promised to keep American forces in Afghanistan even after other Western countries withdraw their troops.

There are currently about 150,000 U.S. troops in the country. According to official figures, more than 2,507 US-led soldiers have been killed in the decade-long war.

The US invaded Afghanistan with the official objective of curbing militancy and bringing peace and stability to the region, however, after 10 years the region remains unstable and militancy has expanded towards Pakistan.

Analysts say the US is looking for an excuse to expand its military operations in the troubled South and Central Asian region to secure bases near Russia and China.

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