LIANE HANSEN, Host:
NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman has been assessing the war effort. He spent almost two and a half months in Afghanistan this year. He's there today. Hi, Tom.
TOM BOWMAN: Hi, Liane. How are you?
HANSEN: I am well, sir. You were there in the early summer. You visited some of the same places that you did then on this trip. Have you seen progress?
BOWMAN: And the security situation is definitely much better than it was last fall. But there's still, you know, a number of problems here. There are certain areas where there's still a good bit of fighting.
HANSEN: And what is the area that you're in?
BOWMAN: They're also training more and more Afghan police. And they do definitely look better, the Afghan police, than they did last year.
HANSEN: Are there other areas in Helmand where they're still fighting?
BOWMAN: And there's another area not too far from Marjah called Sangan(ph). It used to be controlled by the British troops until this summer. It was taken over by the Marines and there's still a good amount of fighting up through there, skirmishes with Taliban forces, and also a lot of roadside bombs in that area. So, it's clearly not over year for Helmand Province, the fighting here, and they expect it to continue for a few more months. They said they hoped to pacify Marjah in two, three more months.
HANSEN: In the few seconds we have left, Tom, is President Obama's July 2011 withdrawal date realistic?
BOWMAN: Well, the sense here is they'll pull out some troops here in July 2011 - probably not that many. And now everyone's looking toward a new date, 2014, and that's a date they hope that the Afghan police and army can take over security for their country. That may be a bit optimistic, that 2014 date. There's still a lot of training to do with both the police and army, but that's the date they're looking toward right now.
HANSEN: NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman in Afghanistan. Tom, thank you.
BOWMAN: Thank you, Liane.
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