Gates: Minimal risks in troop withdrawal from Afghanistan

US Defense Secretary states aims for the responsible withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan due to begin next month.

Robert Gates 311R (photo credit: Reuters)
Robert Gates 311R
(photo credit: Reuters)
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The gradual withdrawal of US combat troops from Afghanistan set to begin next month will be done responsibly and will not expose other coalition and Afghan forces to undue risks, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Sunday.
US General David Petraeus, commander of the 150,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, will soon make recommendations to President Barack Obama about how many should be withdrawn, following Obama's pledge last year to start bringing US combat troops home.
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The commitment followed Obama's December 2009 decision to send 30,000 extra US troops in a bid to arrest a growing Taliban-led insurgency. Fighting increased dramatically, particularly in the Taliban heartland in the south, since the last of those extra troops arrived last summer.
US commanders say significant gains have been made in halting the Taliban's momentum in the south since then, but violence has flared elsewhere in Afghanistan, particularly in the east and with complex attacks in major cities.
Gates said great strides had been made in training enough Afghan police and soldiers adequately to allow for the gradual withdrawal that will end with all foreign combat troops leaving by the end of 2014, according to an agreement reached at a NATO summit last December.