US Defence Secretary Robert Gates urged NATO allies Thursday not to rush out of Afghanistan as he vowed that a US troop drawdown next month would not mean a hasty exit for Washington.
Gates, who attended his final NATO meeting in Brussels before retiring at the end of the month, said the alliance was making “substantial military progress on the ground” and repeated that it was too early know the impact of Osama bin Laden’s death on the war.
“I also reiterated my belief that these gains could be threatened if we do not proceed with the transition to Afghan security lead in a deliberate, organised and coordinated manner,” he told a news conference.
“Even as the United States begins to draw down next month, I assured my fellow ministers that there will be no rush to the exits on our part — and we expect the same from our allies,” he said.
As US President Barack Obama weighs the scope and pace of the drawdown, German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere voiced concerns about its potential impact on the transition if it is too deep. “We are a little concerned that if it’s too much then the strategy cannot be implemented as agreed.