Defense Secretary Robert Gates is in Afghanistan and he is praising the recent progress against the Taliban by American forces.
He says the progress made in the Marjah offensive is encouraging.
Gates visited a small, remote outpost where he met with the Washington-based Stryker unit. The group has sustained heavy casualties, losing 22 men since their arrival last summer. Sixty-two of their number have been wounded. The secretary told the soldiers their sacrifice has helped the U.S. push back the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.
Gates also met with top military commanders and Afghan leaders Monday, including U.S. Gen. Stanley McCrystal and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
"Long term success will ultimately be determined by how well the Afghan government, with the support of the international community, can respond to the citizens of Afghanistan and inspire their loyalty," Gates said.
One of the U.S. forces next big missions will be the fight for Kandahar, the spiritual home of the Taliban.
The 30,000 additional U.S. forces ordered by President Obama will be mostly in place by this summer.
Meanwhile, Gates and President Karzai are planning an April peace conference for Taliban members who renounce their ties to al Qaeda and embrace the Afghan constitution.