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Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday that withdrawing the military from Afghanistan at the end of this year without leaving behind a residual force would be a “terrible mistake.” Keeping such a force is “a signal that we’re not going to do what we did in the late 1980s and turn our backs on Afghanistan and just walk away,” Gates said at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. The Obama administration has publicly signaled a willingness to leave a residual force behind, but Gates said some advisers inside the White House remain opposed to it. President Hamid Karzai, however, has been unwilling yet to sign the agreement, leaving open the possibility that all American forces could leave at the end of this year.

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