DEBORAH AMOS, Host:
This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Deborah Amos, in for Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
NPR's Rachel Martin is traveling with Secretary Gates, and joins us now from Brussels. Hi, Rachel.
RACHEL MARTIN: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: And welcome back to NPR, I should say. Can you tell us a little bit more about this operation in Kandahar? Why is it delayed?
MARTIN: So McChrystal says they want to do things differently. They are trying to be, quote, "deliberate" in Kandahar. They are putting much more planning into this operation. They are also putting a priority on development before military operations. There's a real focus on governance and getting local buy-in to try to gin up more local support. McChrystal says better to get it right than to rush it.
INSKEEP: Well, does all of that mean that there's not really going to be a major military operation in Kandahar?
MARTIN: Well, Kandahar is the spiritual home to the Taliban, but it's not currently held by the Taliban, unlike Marja, which had been under Taliban control for several years. So there will be a military operation, especially outside of Kandahar city, in the more rural parts of the province. But in his first phase, as General McChrystal described it, the focus really is going to be more on getting local leaders onboard, so that any security gains that they do make can be built upon with that support.
INSKEEP: Well, OK. So we heard that Secretary Gates wants to see some progress by the end of the year. Of course, President Obama has talked about troops at least beginning to leave sometime next year. So what kind of progress does General McChrystal have to show in the next few months?
MARTIN: And they're also going to look at the capability of Afghan security forces. The sooner that Afghan security forces can step up, the sooner that U.S. forces can begin to slowly draw down.
INSKEEP: We're talking with NPR's Rachel Martin. She's traveling with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. She's in Brussels, Belgium, and Gates has - spent about 10 days here, going around the world, traveling - as he put it - with his hand out. As you know very well, Rachel Martin, he wants more support for the war in Afghanistan. What kind of support is he getting?
MARTIN: Well, he has resounding this message on virtually every stop of this 10-day tour, asking countries to step up and help fill the gap for trainers. They desperately need about 450 more trainers on the ground to help Afghan security forces get up to snuff. Now, despite all of these requests, he's been getting pushback. NATO officials are struggling to figure out how they can help NATO members with a major budget crises. Europe, right now, has been walloped with the global economic crisis, and individual countries are trying to make serious cuts to their defense budgets. So this request for more trainers comes at a really precarious time.
INSKEEP: Rachel, good to talk with you. Travel safely.
MARTIN: Thank you, Steve.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's Rachel Martin.
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