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Gates: Afghan War 'Not Slipping Through' Obama's Fingers

By VOA News
03 September 2009

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged Thursday there is a "limited time" to show that the new military strategy is working in Afghanistan, but he denied that the U.S. is in danger of losing the conflict.

Gates told reporters Thursday that he does not believe the war in Afghanistan is "slipping through" President Barack Obama's fingers.

He said that earlier this year, the president approved sending an extra 21,000 troops to Afghanistan, and that many of those, as well as civilian workers, still have not arrived in the country.

Gates said any request for further American troops in Afghanistan would come only after officials study the recent assessment of the conditions there.

Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, added that the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is not as important as how they are used to protect the Afghan people.

Earlier this week, U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal delivered his much-anticipated review of the battle against the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan.

In his report, McChrystal urged an expansion of Afghan security forces and a revamped counter-insurgency strategy.

This year has been the deadliest since the U.S.-led invasion into Afghanistan in 2001. And recent U.S. public opinion polls show that a majority of Americans are dissatisfied with continued U.S. involvement there.

Earlier Thursday, international security officials said two service members died after their patrol hit an explosive device in southern Afghanistan. A statement released by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) did not list the nationalities of the service members.

Britain's Defense Ministry also announced that two British soldiers were killed during separate incidents in southern Helmand province.

Meanwhile, NATO said Afghan and international security forces have captured a Taliban militant wanted in connection with several bombing attacks in southern Afghanistan.

A NATO statement said a joint force searched for the suspected militant west of Kandahar City, near the village of Chalghowi in Kandahar Province. It said intelligence led troops to him, and he was apprehended on a roadway without incident Wednesday. NATO also said the suspect was involved in attacks using improvised explosive devices (IED's).

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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