U.S Secretary of Defense Robert Gates arrived in Afghanistan on Monday to assess the possibility of reducing the number of troops on the ground this summer and to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
U.S. President Barack Obama has said he remains committed to reducing the number U.S. troops in Afghanistan in July, a promise he made in 2009 after approving a surge of about 30,000 additional soldiers. Gates' visit comes just before fighting in Afghanistan is expected to pick up with the arrival of warmer, and less formidable, weather.
The visit also comes a week after the accidental killing by U.S. troops of nine Afghan children in Kunar Province. Commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, apologized for the deaths, but in a break with diplomatic protocol, Karzai rejected the apology. The death of nine innocent children, coupled with another report of 67 killed in an earlier airstrike, is sure to complicate the visit by Gates.