US Defense Secretary Visits Afghan Taliban Birthplace

VOANEWS

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Friday visited U.S. troops in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar, the spiritual homeland of the Taliban and the center of the latest U.S. efforts to oust Islamic militants.

Gates met with about 100 soldiers at a U.S. military base near Kandahar City, saying their success in the area will make a difference to NATO’s campaign to secure the region.  He offered condolences to the troops for the recent loss of eight comrades in insurgent attacks and warned there will be more tough days ahead.

One soldier asked Gates if the U.S. military will target insurgent safe havens in Pakistan used by fighters to launch attacks against in Afghanistan. The U.S. defense secretary responded that the likelihood of direct U.S. military engagement in Pakistan is “very low.”

Gates said Pakistan shares the U.S. objective to eliminate the safe havens. But, he said Islamabad’s current focus on tackling a nationwide flooding crisis will delay a Pakistani offensive against militants in the North Waziristan tribal region “for some time.”

Many militants have fled to North Waziristan in the past year to escape Pakistani offensives in other northwestern regions.

On Thursday, Gates held talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul. At a joint news conference, the two gave conflicting accounts about casualties from a NATO air strike on a convoy in the northern province of Takhar earlier that day.

Gates said the air strike killed a leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a militant group he said is responsible for attacks in Kabul and elsewhere. NATO said the air strike also killed at least seven other armed militants who were in the same vehicle as the leader.

To read more, visit: http://www.voanews.com/english/news/US-Defense-Secretary-Visits-Afghan-Taliban-Birthplace-102138944.html

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