Accessibility links

Gates Says No 'Rush For The Exits' In Afghanistan

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates

Defense Secretary Robert Gates says there will be "no rush for the exits" by the United States in Afghanistan.

The United States is preparing to start pulling out some of its 100,000 troops in Afghanistan beginning in July.

Gates spoke at a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels, where allies voiced concerns about the impact on the 10-year-old conflict in Afghanistan of too deep a cut in U.S. troops numbers.

After the meeting, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told a news conference that he was confident U.S. troop withdrawals due to start in July will not affect security in the war-torn country.

"I know that the American administration will take decisions based on the security situation on the ground," he said. "This will not be calendar-driven but conditions-based."

Rasmussen also expressed confidence that the alliance could stick to its timetable for handing over security to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.

Panetta Wants 'Significant' Withdrawal

Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary nominee Leon Panetta told the Senate on June 9 that he backed President Barack Obama's call for withdrawing significant numbers of American troops from Afghanistan beginning in July.

U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin asked Panetta, who has served as CIA director, whether he agreed with the president that the pending withdrawal should be "significant."

Panetta said he agreed with the president's statement -- a comment which seemed to put him at odds with outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates's call for a modest draw-down.

Panetta also said that the CIA believes there are still some 1,000 al-Qaeda fighters still in Iraq, and called the situation there "fragile."

compiled from agency reports