American public support for the Afghan war will dissipate in less than a year unless the Obama administration achieves "a perceptible shift in momentum," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in an interview.
Mr. Gates said the momentum in Afghanistan is with the Taliban, who are inflicting heavy U.S. casualties and hold de facto control of swaths of the country.
The defense chief has been moving aggressively to salvage the war in Afghanistan, signing off on the deployments of 21,000 American military personnel and recently taking the unprecedented step of firing the four-star general who commanded all U.S. forces there. Mr. Gates, speaking in his cabin on an Air Force plane, said the administration is rapidly running out of time to turn around the war.
"People are willing to stay in the fight, I believe, if they think we're making headway," he said. "If they think we're stalemated and having our young men and women get killed, then patience is going to run out pretty fast."