Heavy fighting ahead in Afghanistan, Gates warnsJune 12th, 2009 - 9:15 pm ICT by IANS
Brussels, June 12 (DPA) NATO troops in Afghanistan face heavy fighting in the next few months as the alliance boosts its strength in the country, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Friday.
As Western countries continue to pour troops into the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), “I think the realistic expectation of most people is that we expect a heavy fighting season ahead”, Gates said after talks with NATO counterparts in Brussels.
Nonetheless, “I think there is a real opportunity to make important gains,” he said.
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer echoed that concern, saying that with recent reinforcements, “we will see an intensified and an intensifying fighting season: we will see more casualties on all sides.”
“Nonetheless, this is worth the price … Losing in Afghanistan means that the guys who want to destroy your society are also destroying our society,” he said in answer to a question from an Afghan journalist.
In recent months, the US has launched a massive reinforcement of its Afghan presence in a bid to break the back of the Taliban-led insurgency, making the superpower by far the largest contributor to ISAF.
But Gates went out of his way to praise European allies, saying that they were making a “tremendous contribution in this fight” and pointing out that the number of non-US troops in ISAF had already increased by half.
“The overall impact is much bigger than the arithmetic. The whole is much greater than the sum of its parts,” he said.
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