By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the war in Afghanistan could see a turning point, or significant change, by the end of this year.
Gates told a news conference in Washington on April 21 that an intensified military campaign by the United States and its allies against the Taliban in recent months has driven Taliban fighters out of areas they had controlled for years, including their southern heartland.
Gates said that if the Taliban can be prevented from retaking those areas in expected fighting this summer, and if Afghan government control over regions can be further expanded — then by the end of 2011, in Gates’ words, “We will have turned a corner.”
Gates described 2011 as being a “critical year” for the conflict in Afghanistan.
The United States is expected to begin pulling out some of its nearly 100,000 troops in Afghanistan in July.