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Afghan Officials Ask for More US Military Aid

By Benjamin Sand
Islamabad
04 December 2007

Afghan officials have asked visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates for more military aid and security trainers to help defeat Taliban insurgents. Mr. Gates is on a brief visit to Afghanistan, which has been experiencing an upsurge in insurgent attacks. VOA's Ben Sand has this report from our bureau in Pakistan.

Afghan Army Chief Bismullah Khan thanked the United States for its existing support but told the visiting U.S. defense secretary that more military aid was urgently needed.

Secretary Gates told Afghan officials that Washington is doing all it can to help, including trying to expedite delivery of more weapons.

Before landing in Kabul Mr. Gates told reporters he is concerned by increasing levels of violence in Afghanistan.

"I'm not worried about a backslide as much as I am how we continue," Gates said. " I think one of the clear concerns that we all have is that in the last two or three years there has been a continuing increase in the overall level of violence."

That violence reached record highs this year, killing some 6,000 people, the highest reported death toll since U.S.-led forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

Suicide attacks in particular are on the rise, the latest on Tuesday when a suicide car bomb struck a NATO convoy near the capital's heavily guarded airport.

NATO officials say no troops were killed but 22 civilians were injured in the attack.

Secretary Gates spent the day Tuesday in briefings with both U.S. and Afghan military officials.

Both groups called for more investment in Afghanistan's infrastructure, particularly schools and hospitals, to help win over local communities suspected of supporting the Taliban.

The U.S. defense secretary also met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to discuss regional security concerns.

This is Gates' third trip to Afghanistan since taking over the Pentagon in December 2006.

He is expected to follow up Tuesday's visit with a meeting next week in Scotland with defense ministers from other NATO countries operating in Afghanistan.

U.S. officials have repeatedly called on its European partners to increase military aid to Afghanistan.



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