Afghanistan campaign making progress: NATO

NATO's secretary general says the situation in Afghanistan is getting better but his words come on a day when at least two U.S. soldiers and 11 civilians died in bombings in the country.

The situation in Afghanistan is getting better, NATO's secretary general said on a day when at least two U.S. soldiers and 11 civilians died in bombings.

But Anders Fogh Rasmussen's optimistic take Friday was tempered by U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

Where Rasmussen was sure, saying "progress is visible: political and military progress," Gates was cautious.

"I hope that by the end of year, we will be able to demonstrate that we are making progress throughout the country," Gates said.

The men made the comments at the second day of a NATO defence ministers meeting in Brussels.

A statement from representatives of 46 countries fighting in Afghanistan said NATO was making "measured progress in extending the reach of the Afghan government, changing the political conditions and marginalizing the insurgency."

However, Friday was another violent day in the country as the Taliban continued its bombing campaign aimed at disrupting a major operation by NATO forces to drive the militants from the city of Kandahar, where the Taliban began.

The casualties included:

  • Nine civilians killed, including four women and three children, when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Kandahar province. Eight others were wounded.
  • Two civilians died and at least 16 were wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a shopping area in Zabul province.
  • Two members of the American military died in an explosion. No details have been released.

At least 33 NATO soldiers have been killed in June, including 23 Americans and Canadian Sgt. Martin Goudreault.

The militants have been attacking supply convoys, including a tanker truck that caught fire Friday after a roadside bomb exploded.

Rasmussen said "significant challenges remain, and success is not yet assured," but NATO is "encouraged by recent results."

NATO is working to turn over security to Afghan authorities and that could begin by the end of the year, he said.

Canada's Defence Minister Peter MacKay is attending the Brussels meeting.

With files from The Associated Press