US to bolster Afghan force

Defence secretary says he hopes to send more than 10,000 troops by summer 2009.

    Robert Gates, left, met US commanders during his
    visit to Afghanistan [Reuters]

    "I think it's a real concern that the United States is having to bear a disproportionate part of the burden," he said.

    Gates also said that his commander in the south of Afghanistan felt that Afghan forces and their international counterparts were "holding their own", but that this was "not good enough".

    Additional forces

    US troops are facing increasing
    pressure from Taliban fighters [AFP]

    US Army General David McKiernan, commander of Nato forces and most US troops in Afghanistan, had requested an extra US 20,000 troops, which would push US force levels in Afghanistan past 50,000.

    Gates said he hopes to have three brigades of combat forces, about 10,500 troops, in Afghanistan by the middle of 2009.

    The Pentagon has already scheduled the deployment one of the brigades in January that originally had been set to be sent to Iraq.

    "Beyond January, we are hopeful we will be able to send an additional two brigade combat teams by late spring," Gates said.

    "Until we get to this tipping point where there is sufficient security capabilities in Afghanistan, Afghan-led, there will probably continue to be a degree of insurgent violence," he said.

    'Sustained commitment'

    About 65,000 international troops are currently based in Afghanistan, including more than 30,000 from the United States.

    Barack Obama, the US president-elect, has pledged to make Afghanistan one of his top priorities in his new administration and to send more troops there, asking Gates, a Republican, to remain as defence secretary for his tenure.

    Seven years after US-led forces ended the rule by the Taliban following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US, both Gates and McKiernan say sustained commitment to Afghanistan by the US and its allies was remain a priority for several years.

    "The Soviets couldn't win in Afghanistan with 120,000 troops and they clearly didn't care about civilian casualties, so I think we have to think about the longer term in this," Gates said.


    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    Interactive: Coding like a girl

    Interactive: Coding like a girl

    What obstacles do young women in technology have to overcome to achieve their dreams? Play this retro game to find out.

    The War in October: What Happened in 1973?

    The War in October: What Happened in 1973?

    Al Jazeera examines three weeks of war from which both Arabs and Israelis claimed to emerge victorious.