Attacks on US and coalition forces by Taliban and other militants crossing into Afghanistan from Pakistan have increased sharply since September, according to various news reports covering the visit to Afghanistan by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. US intelligence chief John Negroponte said last week that Taliban safe havens in Pakistan’s tribal areas must be eliminated to end the Afghan insurgency. American military officials on the scene are urging an increase of US forces, primarily to accelerate training of Afghani troops. Gates indicated that he and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Peter Pace, also on the trip, would take several options back to President Bush. After meeting with NATO officials last week, Gates said, “There is clearly a need for both a military response in Afghanistan, but also a civilian response.” Talking with reporters aboard a USAF C-17, Gates asserted, “There is no reason for us to sit back and let the Taliban regroup and threaten the progress that has been made.” He added, “Clearly, if the people who are leading the struggle our here believe there is a need for some additional help to sustain the success we’ve had, I’m going to be very sympathetic to that kind of request.”
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.