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US Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he has seen and heard evidence that his country's counter-insurgency strategy is taking hold in Afghanistan's critical Kandahar Province.
Gates toured American bases and met with troops in the thick of the fighting on Friday. Western Kandahar is reputed to be a major Taliban stronghold.
The Secretary says signs of progress are incremental but growing, although still far from a "done deal." While talking to the soldiers, Gates said the likelihood of direct US military engagement against insurgents hiding in neighboring Pakistan is very low.
Speaking to reporters, he predicted that US and Afghan forces will be able to show some progress in Kandahar Province before the end of the year.