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U.S. not completed mission but making progress in Afghanistan: defense chief


08:23, December 15, 2011

KABUL, Dec. 14 (Xinhua) -- The United States has not won and completed the mission in Afghanistan, said U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta in a joint press conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai held in Afghanistan's capital city Kabul on Wednesday.

"There is no doubt that over the last two years Afghan and international forces have been able to seize the momentum from the Taliban militancy and establish security in critical areas, such as the Taliban's heartland in the south. 2011, I think is representative of a very important turning point in the war," Panetta said.

"We are moving towards a stronger Afghanistan that can govern and secure itself for the future. This past year has been remarkable because we have been fully able to continue to make gains even as we have begun drawing down the first 10,000 troops that President Obama ordered," Panetta added.

Panetta admitted that the U.S. has not won and completed the mission in Afghanistan, "but I do believe that we are in the process of making significant progress here."

"Clearly we have seen reduced violence, the most reduced violence in five years. We have seen the ability to weaken the Taliban significantly, to the point that they have not conducted a successful attack to regain the lost territory," he said.

Leon E. Panetta paid a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Tuesday. His visit to Afghanistan occurred days after the beginning of the second phase of security transition from the NATO-led troops to the Afghan forces. The second phase of handing over security to the Afghan government begun from Parwan province, 55 km north of Afghan capital Kabul, on December 1.

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