“They believe we have achieved significant progress in reversing the Taliban's momentum and in developing the Afghan security forces,” Little said. “And they believe that the fundamentals of our strategy remain sound.”
Afghanistan has been thrown into turmoil since last Tuesday’s Quran burning incident, which sparked widespread protests and violence. The Taliban retaliated Monday in a car bombing that killed at least nine Afghans in eastern Afghanistan.
President Obama, Panetta and Afghanistan commander Gen. John Allen all apologized for the Quran burning, but that did not appear to quell the violence or protests among Afghans.
Afghan officials also apologized to Panetta for the deaths of the two U.S. officers, who were shot in the Afghan Interior Ministry Saturday, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called for calm.
Republicans have criticized Obama's apology, as well as his strategy to withdraw the remaining 23,000 surge forces from Afghanistan in the fall.
Capt. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman who appeared via satellite from Kabul on Monday, said NATO forces are not ready to send personnel back into Afghan ministries in Kabul, as they were evacuated after the Interior Ministry killing. Allen is taking the security precaution as a temporary measure, Kirby said, though he does not have a timeline for personnel to return to the ministries.
Kirby said that protests in Afghanistan declined in number on Monday and were not violent. He said there were 24 protests Saturday, nine on Sunday and just three on Monday.
“Obviously I'd be less than honest if I didn't say that things are tense here in Kabul. They certainly are,” Kirby said. “But I will tell you that it's getting calmer here.”