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US to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2011

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates says his country will keep a large number of its troops in Afghanistan even after President Barack Obama’s 2011 deadline for starting troop withdrawal.

Despite mounting US casualties in the war-torn country, Gates said the US-led forces were making headway in the war.

“I think we need to re-emphasize the message that we are not leaving Afghanistan in July of 2011,” Gates told ABC’s This Week.

The remarks echoed those of US Vice President Joe Biden, who had earlier hinted that the number of American troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan in 2011 would be as few as 2,000.

With 66 fatalities, July set the record as the deadliest month for American forces stationed in Afghanistan since the start of the war in 2001.

Gate, however, downplayed the number saying, “We have warned about this for months, that this summer would be very difficult for us. But I think there are tangible signs that this approach is working, this strategy is working.”

Meanwhile, the Netherlands is withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan. The Dutch troops joined the US-led war in Afghanistan back in 2006.

The rising number of casualties has increased opposition to the Afghan war in the US and other European states.

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