Gates says this year critical for Afghanistan

April 23, 2011 - 0:0

WASHINGTON(Xinhua) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday said this year will be “critical” for Afghanistan, and it might determine if the United States can “turn a corner” in the unpopular war it is currently fighting.

“My own view is that this year is a critical year,” Gates told a Pentagon briefing. “We have driven the Taliban out of areas they have controlled for years, including their heartland ... If we can prevent them this year from retaking the areas that we have taken away from them and we can continue to expand the security bubble,” by the end of this year, “we will have turned a corner.”
Gates said there has been some uptick in Taliban activity as weather is getting warmer, and he said the Taliban will probably increase attacks more in May and June.
“We are all expecting an increase in the level of violence and activity beginning in a few weeks,” said Gates.
The United States is scheduled to begin its withdrawal from Afghanistan in July.