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US Lowers Expectations for Quick Success in Taliban Stronghold

VOA News 10 June 2010

The top NATO and U.S. commander in Afghanistan says efforts to secure southern Kandahar province from the Taliban will take longer than first planned. U.S. General Stanley McChrystal said Thursday in Brussels that the military operation will move ahead more slowly to ensure support from residents living in the birthplace of the Taliban.

McChrystal said the operation will now take months but that it is more important "we get it right than we get it fast."

The changes follow setbacks in the U.S.-led offensive in neighboring Helmand province earlier this year, where troops worked to clear the town of Marjah of Taliban militants. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has warned of more violence as U.S. forces push deeper into Kandahar province, but says that he expects progress.

NATO says a bomb explosion killed one of its soldiers in southern Afghanistan Wednesday, raising the number of NATO troops killed in militant attacks since Monday to 19.

Earlier this week, the New York Times newspaper reported that the expected military push in Kandahar has shifted to a strategy focusing on civilian reconstruction efforts first and military action against militants second.

The newspaper cites interviews with Afghan, U.S. and civilian and military officials, who said the new strategy was adopted in response to opposition to military action from an unsympathetic local population and Afghan officials. The report also says the recent U.S. military push to clear and hold Marjah in neighboring Helmand province has not been as sucessful as hoped.

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

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