Defense Secretary In Afghanistan

BAGRAM, Afghanistan (AP) - Defense Secretary Robert Gates says that both the U.S. and Afghan governments agree on continued but reduced American military involvement after combat operations end in 2014.

Gates told a group of American troops today that it would be just a small fraction of the presence that the U.S. has today, to help train and advise Afghan forces. A soldier asked Gates about a long-term military presence, and Gates noted that Washington and Kabul have recently begun negotiating a security partnership. He mentioned no details.

Defense Department spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters flying with the Pentagon chief from Washington that Gates wants to get a first-hand feel for changes on the ground since he last was in
Afghanistan in December.

The U.S. is committed to beginning a troop withdrawal in July. But the size and scope of the pullback will depend on the degree of progress toward handing off full control to the shaky Afghan government.

Later on Monday, Gates is to meet with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul. Gates is on a two-day visit to Afghanistan.