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    US goal is to undermine Taliban: Gates

    WASHINGTON (PAN): A key US objective in Afghanistan is to turn back the Taliban's military and violent capabilities to the degree that government forces could deal with them and provide some minimal capability at the district and provincial level for security and dispute resolution, the defence secretary said on Friday.

    "Our goal isn't to build a 21st-century Afghanistan. Our goal is not a country that is free of corruption, which would be unique in the entire region," Robert Gates told reporters at a White House news conference immediately after Barack Obama announced results of his annual Af-Pak policy review.

    "Our goal is what do we need to do, along with our partners and the Afghans, to turn back the Taliban's military and violent capabilities to the degree that the Afghan government forces can deal with them and to provide some minimal capability at the local district and provincial level for security, for dispute resolution, for perhaps a clinic within an hour's walk," he explained.

    "What we are trying to work our way toward is just what do we have to do to be able to turn over security responsibility to the Afghans with us in the background, and perhaps in a train-and-equip mission like we've increasingly taken on in Iraq," Gates said.

    One of the things the Obama administration had done was keeping them focused on not getting too ambitious, not setting unachievable goals and trying to have a minimalist approach that focused on Al-Qaida and the Taliban and on Afghan capabilities, he added.

    Acting Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan Frank Ruggiero echoed Gates' views: "We are not in the nation-building business in terms of governance. So we need to provide some very basic capabilities so that we could transition our military forces," he said at another news conference at the State Department.

    Afghan national security forces had to be built up to a degree that they could take the security picture, and there had to be either a local shura or there had to be some level of local governance that could do dispute adjudication, provide some basic level of services to pave the way for transition, the envoy said.

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