June 4 - Secretary of State Robert Gates says there will be no ''rush to the exits'' regarding the U.S. drawdown of forces in Afghanistan. Deborah Gembara reports.
The U.S. is in no hurry to leave Afghanistan --- that was the message from U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on his 12th and final trip to the country. Gates sought to reassure President Hamid Karzai about the U.S.'s commitment during a meeting in Kabul. SOUNDBITE: U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates saying (English): "While the U.S. and our coalition partners may drawdown our military forces over time, we are committed to a long term strategic partnership with Afghanistan. We will continue to train, equip and support Afghan security forces and do what we can to help the government improve the lives of its citizens. In short, there will be no rush to the exits." He also stressed gains made by coalition forces to secure Taliban strongholds in the east and south but acknowledged there are still outstanding problems. SOUNDBITE: U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates saying (English): "The terrorist sanctuaries along the border, particularly on the Pakistani side, have been a continuing concern. The reality is, in the last two years or so, I think the Pakistanis themselves have begun to realize that these terrorists are a challenge, not only in terms of what goes on in Afghanistan, but are a challenge to the government and the people of Pakistan itself, and we have seen, in just recent weeks, a number of terrorist attacks inside Pakistan." The one thing Gates did not comment on was the plan to begin reducing the U.S.'s footprint in the country beginning next month. He is expected to offer President Obama his final recommendations on the pace of a drawdown before he leaves his post as defense secretary at the end of June. Deborah Gembara, Reuters.