Us Afghans Brace For Elections

08.14.09 | FL News Team

U.S. Marines and Afghan soldiers by the hundreds are being positioned in southern Afghanistan for next week's national elections. That area of the country is a stronghold of the Taliban. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the security environment is critically important as Afghanistan tries to move forward. In a Pentagon briefing, Gates cited a "mixed picture" on security there. President Obama has ordered more U.S. forces to Afghanistan as the war-ravaged nation struggles with a resurgent Taliban and a booming illicit drug trade. Gates sidestepped questions about when U.S. forces may be able to leave Afghanistan and said it'll take some time for the revised military strategy to show results. He insisted there must be some noticeable progress within a year. Gates stressed the importance of reducing civilian casualties and rolling back the Taliban.

 

Meantime, Secretary Gates was pressed about the hunt for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. He said the U.S. remains very interested in "getting rid of the leadership of al-Qaeda" and called it a very high priority. Bin Laden is thought to be hiding in the remote, mountainous border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. U.S.-led forces invaded Afghanistan after the 9-11 terrorist attacks to overthrow the ruling Taliban, which had been providing safe haven for al-Qaeda.