U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said that a gradual withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan would be done slowly and responsibly.
Gates spoke during a visit to a military base in the southern Helmand Province.
He said the U.S. administration faced a delicate balance in deciding how many troops to withdraw and the number settled on should not "cause our allies to race to the exits because they think we are."
President Barack Obama is expected to announce his decision on a troop withdrawal next month.
compiled from agency reports