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US Defense Chief Calls for More International Aid for Afghanistan

By Alex Villarreal
04 December 2007

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is calling on the international community to do more for Afghanistan in its fight against extremists. Gates has been visiting the country, which is experiencing an upsurge in insurgent attacks. VOA's Alex Villarreal reports on the visit from Washington.

During a joint news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Secretary Gates said he continues to press U.S. allies in Europe and elsewhere to fulfill their commitments in Afghanistan.

"There are, I think, some 70 nations and organizations involved in trying to assist this young democracy, and I think it is incumbent upon all of them to provide the assistance that is required," he said.

Both President Karzai and his army chief, Bismullah Khan, told the visiting U.S. defense secretary that Afghanistan needs more military aid.

Secretary Gates said Washington is doing all it can to help, including trying to expedite delivery of more weapons.

But he added that other NATO members must meet their commitment to provide more help for Afghanistan, including more trainers for the new Afghan security forces, which General Khan indicated is an urgent need.

Mr. Gates expressed concern over increasing levels of violence in Afghanistan, calling progress toward establishing security "uneven." But he said that does not mean efforts by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, are failing.

"The consistent message that I heard today from both American and Afghan military leaders as well as other military leaders and ISAF was that an important reason for the increased violence is because there is a much more aggressive effort on the part of ISAF to go after the Taliban and to go into areas where they have not been active before," he said.

In the past, Secretary Gates has criticized some NATO allies for their restrictions on where in Afghanistan their troops can fight.

Violence in Afghanistan has killed some 6,000 people this year, the highest reported death toll since U.S.-led forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

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

NATO officials reported no deaths in the attack, but say 22 civilians were injured.

This is Gates' third trip to Afghanistan since he took over the Pentagon last year.

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