The US says it will not pull out large numbers of its troops from Afghanistan in July 2011, contradicting a promise made earlier by President Barack Obama.
In an interview with Fox News on Sunday, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates brushed aside suggestions that Washington would, in accordance with a deadline set by Obama, begin a significant draw-down of its troops in July of 2011.
"That absolutely has not been decided," Gates said.
He also emphasized that any decision would be made based upon the situation on the ground in Afghanistan.
Similar remarks were made earlier by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who said in an interview with ABC that the size of the reduction would depend on conditions on the ground.
The comments come at a time when US-led forces are wrestling with growing militancy in Afghanistan as outbursts of violence claim more lives from US-led troops.
General David Petraeus, the commander of US forces in the Middle East, said last week that in setting the deadline for the surge last year, Obama's message was "one of urgency -- not that July 2011 is when we race for the exits, reach for the light switch and flip it off."
Earlier in June, after a meeting in Brussels, Gates said that Washington had underestimated the volatility of the situation in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban in 2001 and had not deployed sufficient troops.
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