There are no plans to deploy U.S. ground troops to Pakistan, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday, despite concerns over increasing violence between Pakistani troops and Taliban militants.
Speaking to about 300 Marines at Camp Leatherneck in southern Afghanistan on Thursday, Gates assured them that they wouldn't be fighting in the neighboring sovereign nation.
During a 12-minute question-and-answer session in sweltering heat, Gates told a sergeant he didn't have to "worry about going to Pakistan."
Pakistan's military continued fighting Taliban guerrillas in the Swat Valley on Thursday. On Wednesday, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari appealed to President Barack Obama for more help reversing the extension of Taliban-held territory to within 60 miles of the capital, Islamabad.
Brig. Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in southern Afghanistan, told reporters that he expects to see an increase of violence in Afghanistan between now and elections this fall.
"This will be a spike, not an upward slope," he said, because as U.S.-led forces try to secure areas, insurgents are going to try to push back.
More than 60,000 U.S. troops will be stationed in Afghanistan by fall, up from about 38,000 now. The Pentagon has estimated it will deploy about 68,000 troops to Afghanistan for the length of the U.S. combat mission.
Nicholson said the U.S. is looking at three factors to see if its efforts in Afghanistan are working: better security over a period of time, an increase in Afghan security forces and a decrease in poppy cultivation.
Gates also told the Marines that the Pentagon was working on getting troops more time at home between deployments in battle zones.