By Mark Memmott

The situation in Afghanistan is no longer "deteriorating" and the stage has been set for "real progress in 2010," the top commander of NATO forces, American Gen. Stanley McChrystal, told reporters in Istanbul today.

Cautioning that he does not yet believe "we have turned the corner," McChrystal said that:

"The situation is serious, but I think we have made significant progress in setting conditions in 2009 and ... that we'll make real progress in 2010."

In the past year, you'll recall, the U.S. has mounted an offensive in the Taliban stronghold of Helmand Province and has begun a troop "surge" in Afghanistan. Yesterday, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said the next 12 to 18 months are critical in Afghanistan.

As for the fight against the Taliban, McChrystal said he is not yet prepared to say the U.S. and its allies are "winning," but that "we are very much engaged and I confident we are going to see serious progress this year."

Here's an audio clip from McChrystal's conversation today:

categories: Afghanistan

11:15 - February 4, 2010