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American Forces Press Service

Gates Plans Scotland Trip to Discuss Afghanistan With Allies

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2007 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates will travel to Edinburgh, Scotland, for meetings with allies with troops in southern Afghanistan, defense officials said here today.

British Defense Minister Des Brown will host the meeting. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns will accompany Gates to the meeting. In addition to the United States and the United Kingdom, defense and foreign ministers from Australia, the Netherlands, Denmark, Canada, Romania and Estonia are participating in the meeting.

All the forces are part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force’s Regional Command South, which is has its headquarters in Kandahar. The area was a Taliban stronghold and is an active battleground. NATO forces and Afghan National Army soldiers have been campaigning in the south.

“RC South remains the focal point for operations in Afghanistan,” said Geoff Morrell, Pentagon press secretary, during a news conference here today. “In fact, daily attacks have doubled since NATO’s International Security Assistance Force took over there.”

Still, Gates is optimistic about the situation in the region. “Secretary Gates returned from his trip to Afghanistan last week even more convinced that the Taliban’s recent resurgence in some parts of the nation is not a threat militarily, but is clearly undermining the coalition’s efforts to stabilize and develop that country,” Morrell said.

Gates has clear ideas about what is wrong with the Afghan strategy and how it should be adjusted. “Over the course of the next couple of days in Edinburgh, he will have a chance to delve more deeply into those ideas with his counterparts,” the press secretary said.

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