The American public is tired of the failing war against the Taliban in Afghanistan but military planners still insist the battle can be won while also warning that time is running out.
In London, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown also defends his country’s role in Afghanistan while public unease from Brits is on the rise.
With troop deaths reaching record highs, Defense Secretary Robert Gates claimed Thursday the war is not "slipping through the administration’s fingers."
"There is a limited time for us to show that this is working," Gates said at a Pentagon press conference. "We are mindful of that, we understand the concerns of many Americans in that area, but we think that we now have the resources and the right approach to start making some headway."
Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Michael Mullen also stressed that "there is a sense of urgency" and "time is not on our side."
"There’s no way to defeat Al-Qaeda, which is the mission, with just that approach, you can’t do it remotely, you can’t do it offshore," Mullen said, after conservative columnist George Will joined anti-war liberals this week in calling for a US withdrawal. "I certainly don’t think it’s time to leave."
General Stanley McChrystal, the top US commander in Afghanistan, Monday delivered a long-awaited classified review of America’s strategy expected to lead to a request for more troops.
Gates and Mullen wont’ publiclyk discuss the findings of McChrystal’s report, saying only that it was forwarded to President Barack Obama and is being evaluated by senior military officials.
"What’s more important than the number of troops he may or may not ask for is how he intends to use them. It should come as no surprise to anyone that he intends to use those forces under his command to protect the Afghan people," Mullen said. "In my view, the numbers that count most are the numbers of Afghans we protect."
McChrystal, who took over in June, has said his new strategy will place renewed focus on securing the population.
But problems presist. AFP reports:
In the latest NATO strike against the rising insurgency, the German army said 56 Taliban insurgents were killed in an airstrike in the northern Kunduz region after rebels attacked an alliance convoy.
Dozens of casualties, including civilians, were feared in the strike on fuel tankers hijacked by the Taliban.
Gates, has expressed reservations about the NATO presence becoming too large in Afghanistan, but said his concerns could be "mitigated" if foreign troops could give the Afghan population confidence "that we’re their partners and their allies."
The Pentagon chief said he took seriously McChrystal’s point that "the size of the imprint, of the footprint… depends in significant measure on the nature of the footprint and the behavior of those troops."
A new CNN poll released Tuesday shows 57 percent of Americans oppose the war while 40 percent believe it cannot be won.