The United States Defence Secretary has confirmed that the US will send thousands of extra troops to Afghanistan by the middle of next year.
Robert Gates is in Afghanistan on his second visit in four months. But he said he didn't see the boost in US forces leading to a swift end to the war. Instead he warned that US forces may have to remain in Afghanistan for many years.
Washington correspondent Kim Landers reports.
KIM LANDERS: When US Defence Secretary Robert Gates first planned this trip to Afghanistan, it was supposed to be a farewell tour. But now he's staying on at his post at the request of President-elect Barack Obama so this visit has morphed a consultation session about what's facing the incoming administration.
About 4,000 extra US troops are due to arrive in Afghanistan next month. Defence Secretary Robert Gates says another two combat brigades will follow soon after.
ROBERT GATES: Again the final decisions haven't come to me, but beyond January we are hopeful that we will be able to send an addition two combat, brigade combat teams by late spring.
KIM LANDERS: Robert Gates has been visiting the rapidly expanding base for international forces in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. He's acknowledged that the fight against the Taliban in the region could be better.
ROBERT GATES: This is a long fight and I think we are in it until we are successful along with the Afghan people.
KIM LANDERS: And seven years after US led forces ended Taliban rule, he says an ongoing commitment from America and its allies will be needed for years to come.
ROBERT GATES: But I do believe that there will be a requirement for a sustained commitment here for some protracted period of time. How many years that is and how many troops that is, I think nobody knows at this point.
KIM LANDERS: US troop levels are already at their highest since the 2001 invasion. The US general who oversees the Afghan war is David Petraeus, who heads Central Command. Earlier this week he delivered a speech in Rome saying he'd recommended a major troop surge in Afghanistan based on requests from General David McKiernan, the top US commander of US and NATO forces in the country.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, says while troops can help secure Afghanistan, diplomatic and political progress is needed too.
MIKE MULLEN: Flowing all those troops to Afghanistan will not fix the problem. It will create the environment, shape the environment. But there's a great deal of work that needs to be done, not just by the United States, not just by NATO, but by the international community to get those other two pieces right.
KIM LANDERS: President-elect Barack Obama has already said getting more troops to Afghanistan is a priority. He too is making it clear that military might in Afghanistan is just one piece of the puzzle in the fight against terrorism.
BARACK OBAMA: We need a strategic partnership with all the parties in the region - Pakistan and India and the Afghan Government - to stamp out the kind of militant, violent, terrorist extremists that have set up base camps and that are operating in ways that threaten the security of everybody in the international community.
And as I've said before, we can't continue to look at Afghanistan in isolation. We have to see it is part of a regional problem that includes Pakistan, includes India, includes Kashmir, includes Iran.
KIM LANDERS: Details of where the extra US troops will go haven't been released but it's expected a large chunk of them will head to southern Afghanistan.
This is Kim Landers in Washington for The World Today
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