Defense Secretary Gates gets firsthand look at operations in southern Afghanistan

By Anne Gearan, AP
Friday, September 3, 2010

Gates visits US forces in southern Afghanistan

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — As the last of 30,000 U.S. reinforcements arrive in Afghanistan, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Friday got a firsthand look at operations in the dangerous south where Afghan and international troops are ramping up security.

Gates traveled to Kandahar province, a region where the Taliban are fighting back and waging a fear and intimidation campaign to keep local Afghans from siding with international forces and the Afghan government.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said that Gates wanted to get a close-up look at Kandahar and efforts by U.S. and NATO troops to rout insurgents from their strongholds and bolster governance.

“As we expected and warned, coalition forces, as well as Afghan army and police, have take heavier casualties as we go into areas the Taliban has dominated for years,” Gates said Thursday at a news conference in Kabul with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. “Having said that, our enemies are paying a very steep price and feeling more pressure than ever.”

“That will only intensify, as Afghan and coalition military operations expand, bringing security to people and communities the Taliban has terrorized,” Gates said.

Gates met with Karzai and Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

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