June 6 - As the U.S. considers the number of troops to drawdown in July, Defense Secretary Gates warns against pulling troops out too quickly. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates wraps up his farewell visit to military posts in Afghanistan Monday warning against pulling troops out too quickly. On his tour, Gates was asked repeatedly asked how the death of Osama bin Laden would affect U.S. strategy and what the impact would be on President Barack Obama's plan to begin pulling out troops from Afghanistan in July. SOUNDBITE: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, saying (English): "I think we've made headway on our major goals, which have been to disrupt al Qaeda and try and defeat them. Clearly the killing of bin Laden was a big deal in that. We've still got a ways to go and I just think we shouldn't let up on the gas too much at least for the next few months." Obama promised to begin pulling troops out in July 2011 when he announced a plan in December 2009 to deploy an additional 30,000 troops to arrest a growing Taliban-led insurgency. Earlier this year it appeared likely that only a few thousand troops might initially be withdrawn. But budget pressures and the killing of bin Laden have led to calls for a larger withdrawal or a shift to a counterterrorism strategy that would focus on fighting al Qaeda and its allies with fewer troops. Gates, who steps down as Pentagon chief at the end of June, visited five military outposts across Afghanistan over the past two days. SOUNDBITE: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, saying (English): "Probably more than anybody but the president himself, I am responsible for your being here. I'm the guy that signed the deployment orders that sent you here. That has weighed on me everyday I've had this job for four and a half years. I've taken it as my personal responsibility to make you had what you need to accomplish your mission and come home safely." U.S. General David Petraeus, commander of the 150,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, is due to make recommendations to Obama on how many soldiers can be pulled out. Deborah Lutterbeck, Reuters