U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates today warned of "very hard days" in the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Gates, who arrived in Kabul for talks with Afghan and U.S. military officials, said at a news conference after meeting Afghan President Hamid Karzai that he is optimistic the international coalition and Afghan forces will prevail.
"There is still much fighting ahead, and there will assuredly be more dark days," he said. "But looking forward, there are grounds for optimism as our countries pursue what President Karzai has called 'an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned initiative to ensure peace and stability.' That is a goal I share and, working together, it is one we can achieve."
Earlier, Gates, speaking to reporters on his plane before landing in the Afghan capital, acknowledged recent gains against the Islamic militants, including an offensive to take control of their strongholds in southern Helmand Province.
Gates also warned Iran that the United States would respond if Iran tried aggressively to undermine the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan.
compiled from agency reports