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Gates Bids Farewell to Troops in Afghanistan; Reaffirms the Mission's Importance


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Fox News:

KABUL, Afghanistan – U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Saturday during his farewell trip to Afghanistan that success of the U.S. mission is paramount and the "most costly thing of all would be to fail."

Gates, who's retiring as Pentagon chief at month's end, flew to Afghanistan from a security conference in Asia to bid goodbye to U.S. troops and Afghan leaders.

Gates planned to meet with soldiers and Marines in eastern and southern Afghanistan. He also scheduled talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has been sharply critical in recent days of NATO airstrikes that have killed and wounded civilians.

Aides said it was Gates' 12th trip to Afghanistan since he became defense secretary in December 2006. Gates told reporters before arriving in Kabul that although the war has proved costly in blood and money, budget concerns should not cut short the drive to succeed.

President Barack Obama has pledged to begin withdrawing American troops in July, but no final decisions have been made on the size of that withdrawal or the pace of subsequent troop reductions.

Many in Congress are arguing for an early U.S. exit from Afghanistan, now that Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden has been killed. They say the cost of the conflict, at more than $100 billion a year, is unsustainable.

Gates disputed that reasoning.

"Success of the mission should override everything else because the most costly thing of all would be to fail," he said before flying to Afghanistan.

"Now that does not preclude adjustments in the mission or in the strategy. But ultimately the objective has to be success in the mission that has been set forth by the president," he said.

Obama has said the overarching goal is to defeat Al Qaeda and to enable the Afghan government to stand on its own.

Fine by me...can we get an estimate on when either of these two goals will be achieved under this administration?
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