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On Afghanistan: 'Very Hard Fighting, Very Hard Days Ahead,' Gates Says

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On Afghanistan: 'Very Hard Fighting, Very Hard Days Ahead,' Gates Says

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On Afghanistan: 'Very Hard Fighting, Very Hard Days Ahead,' Gates Says

Gates, left, and Karzai today. Jim Watson/Pool/AP hide caption

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Jim Watson/Pool/AP

Gates, left, and Karzai today.

Jim Watson/Pool/AP

Afghan, NATO and U.S. forces have made good progress in recent months in Afghanistan, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says, but he also cautions that "very hard fighting, very hard days" are ahead. And that means more U.S. casualties.

The secretary is in Afghanistan today, where he met with President Hamid Karzai and other leaders. On the plane headed there Sunday, NPR's Mary Louise Kelly recorded the secretary's comments about the dangerous work that remains to be done as the U.S. and its allies go after Taliban fighters:

On Afghanistan: 'Very Hard Fighting, Very Hard Days Ahead,' Gates Says

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Today, Mary Louise was among the reporters at a news conference held by Karzai and Gates. The Associated Press writes that Karzai discussed "an action plan to reintegrate low- to mid-level insurgent fighters into society and negotiate with the Taliban's top echelon" which will be "crafted next month at a peace conference aimed at ending the war."

"The objective will be to get guidance from the Afghan people on how to move forward towards reintegration and reconciliation — where reconciliation may be possible — and chart out an action plan in consultation with the Afghan people," Karzai said.

Also during the news conference, Gates was asked about the corruption that is rife in the Afghan government at all levels. He talked about the concern that the billions of dollars coming from the U.S. and other nations are being siphoned off. Gates said that "we in the United States government ... have an obligation to investigate and try to prevent" the money from going to corrupt officials:

On Afghanistan: 'Very Hard Fighting, Very Hard Days Ahead,' Gates Says

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Mary Louise will be reporting about Gates' visit to Afghanistan on today's edition of All Things Considered. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show. Later, her report will be posted here.