Defense Secretary Robert Gates confirmed Sunday that U.S. diplomats have begun negotiating with leaders of the Taliban. With the talks only in their first few weeks, Gates says he believes the Taliban will not budge unless they “continue to feel themselves under military pressure,” pressing his case against an early withdrawal. The reality on the ground bears out his skepticism: Though Western nations are putting millions behind a 10-month-old plan to offer Taliban fighters a secure income in exchange for switching sides, only a fraction of the group's 20,000 to 40,000 fighters have agreed to do so. Gates appeared on two Sunday morning news shows as part of his final media tour before retirement, arguing against a swift withdrawal from Afghanistan. He said the military didn't have the right strategy until the summer of 2010, and hasn't had time to see it work.
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