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US troops to be in Afghanistan for two to four years – and nobody knows where bin Ladin is

US defence secretary Robert Gates said there would be a continuing US military presence in Afghanistan for two to four more years.  As in Iraq, American forces will eventually hand over provinces to locals so Americans can draw down their troop numbers. Gates and secretary of state Hillary Clinton blanketed the TV political talk shows this weekend to discuss the new Afghanistan strategy of American and Nato troop increases. Gates added that initial troop withdrawals in 2011 might only start with small numbers, even as he denied the transition date could aid the Taliban. Gates noted the Taliban can read international newspapers and follow public opinion polls too. Even if they lay low until the target withdrawal date, that is a win for the US and Afghanistan as it gives the coalition time to progress, he said. Meanwhile, Clinton cautioned not to expect big successes in winning over Taliban leaders. Gates also said the US had no reliable information on where al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was – and the US hasn’t really known his cave’s address for years. Gates told ABC News on Sunday: "Well, we don't know for a fact where Osama bin Laden is. If we did, we'd go get him." For more, read the AP or the BBC

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