New Afghan strategy under review as US insists on stay

Obama is convening his top foreign policy advisers to consider options for the eight-year-old occupation, in the face of rising casualties and souring public opinion.

New Afghan strategy under review as US insists on stay

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the United States would not be pulling out of Afghanistan despite a strategy review underway at the White House.

"I had lunch with the Pakistani ambassador last week, and I made absolutely clear to him: we are not leaving Afghanistan," Gates said in an interview with CNN on Monday.

Gates said there was no doubt about US interests in the region.

The discussion underway at the White House was about the "next steps forward" in the Afghan war, Gates said.

"And while there may be some short-term uncertainty on the part of our allies, in terms of those next steps, there should be no uncertainty in terms of our determination to remain in Afghanistan and to continue to build a relationship of partnership and trust with the Pakistanis," he said.

"That's long term," he said.

Gates was speaking in a joint interview with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton taped before an audience at George Washington University. The program is due to air on Tuesday.

The remarks come 48 hours after one of the US military's worst loss in eight years of occupation in Afghanistan, when eight American soldiers were killed Saturday as hundreds of insurgents raided two posts in remote Nuristan province.

"New strategy"

Obama is convening his top foreign policy advisers for a series of meetings to consider options for the eight-year-old occupation, in the face of rising casualties and souring public opinion. His administration is split over whether to boost U.S. forces or take an alternative path.

Vice President Joe Biden has privately proposed narrowing the mission in Afghanistan, concentrating instead on attacking "al Qaeda targets primarily in neighboring Pakistan."

General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, last week opposed the move.

Congressional officials said that McChrystal was seeking up to 40,000 more troops and trainers for the Afghan war.

National security adviser James Jones appeared to criticize McChrystal over the weekend for publicly advocating a strategy for Afghanistan.

"Ideally, it's better for military advice to come up through the chain of command," Jones told CNN.

Some 66,000 U.S. forces are stationed in Afghanistan. Gates said the campaign was on a "worrisome trajectory," with attacks levels up 60 percent from a year ago.

In the deadliest attack for U.S. troops in more than a year, eight American soldiers were killed after tribal militia stormed two combat outposts in a remote area of eastern Afghanistan, the military said on Sunday.

Gates, who has been described by aides as undecided on strategy, said he would "salute and carry out" whatever orders Obama gives him.

Army Chief of Staff General George Casey told reporters on Monday he intended to deliver his recommendations "directly to the president and to do it privately."



Agencies

Last Mod: 06 Ekim 2009, 12:10
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